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Planning appeals board inspector analysed fears of local residents

December 10th, 2018 3:45 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Members of the public attending a meeting about the plastics factory, held in Skibbereen in July. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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IT looks likely that, given An Bord Pleanala’s (ABP) decision to grant permission for the proposed plastics factory for Skibbereen, a judicial review may be sought by the Save Our Skibbereen action group.

An appeal had been lodged by two parties against Cork County Council’s decision to grant permission to the plant at Poundlick on the edge of town.

Save our Skibbereen said last July that if ABP was to rule in favour of the factory, it would be taking legal advice on the best way to challenge and overturn the decision.

A number of high profile people are supporting the Save Our Skibbereen campaign, including film producer David Puttnam.

The factory is to be developed by Daly Products Ltd, a global player in the plastics industry, with family connections to West Cork.

And while the permission has now been granted, despite ABP’s inspector recommending refusal, there were a number of conditions attached by the Bord members, as recommended by the inspector.

The site, which is located on the western outskirts of Skibbereen, is 1.5 km to the south-west of the town centre, just off the Baltimore Road (R595). 

To the north-east lies Skibbereen Retirement Village and Care Centre, along with several dwelling houses within the vicinity of the site, along the regional and local roads. 

One dwelling house, on the northern side of the local road, is surrounded on three sides by the site, the inspector noted.

The factory plan entails the construction of a thermoplastic compounds facility, which would manufacture plastic pellets, over 4,831 sqm.

There would be two production halls, an office, a laboratory, four storage silos, a 384 sqm warehouse and a yard for bins and skips, along with two staff car parks. The manufacturing process would involve adding resins and additives to an extruder where they are melted and extracted as strands. The strands are then cooled and cut into pellets.

The facility would produce 4,700 tonnes annually and the final product would be used for injection moulding or sheet extrusions.

The two residents who appealed Cork County Council’s decision to grant permission were named in the report as local residents Jason Swanton (care of Dorothy Swanton) and Brendan McCarthy.

ABP’s inspector, Hugh Morrison, who compiled the report, stated the grounds for appeal by Mr Swanton as being related to his autism, given that he has a ‘sensory processing difficulty whereby he hears noises at a higher level than other people’ and is also hyper-sensitive to odours. 

Brendan McCarthy, the report says, was appealing on several grounds. Among them, the proximity of 22 residential dwellings, a 50-bed nursing home, and 28 retirement homes. 

Mr McCarthy also noted the rezoning of the site from a green belt to business, and the location of the site, which does not have direct access to the N71 on the other side of town. He also noted traffic concerns, parking issues, and said his own house would be 40m away from the factory’s production building which is proposed to be 13m high, and exceeded again by 17.3m high silos.

The facility would also be illuminated at night, to facilitate 24-hour operations, he claimed, and so the current night-time darkness in the locality would cease.

The company disputed many of Mr McCarthy’s claims and made reference to the conditions already imposed by Cork County Council. It also made reference to existing factories in the vicinity.

Regarding air quality concerns made by Mr McCarthy, the inspector noted: ‘I note that whereas a conditioned monitoring programme for air quality could have a part to play in allaying [this] concern, critically the absence of specific information on potential pollutants, a baseline survey of existing air quality, and modelling of the impact of the proposal is highly unsatisfactory.’ 

There were various submissions referred to regarding noise emissions from the site, during construction and when operational, and the inspector stated: ‘I conclude that the applicant [Daly Products] has failed to demonstrate that the noise and emissions affecting air quality that would be generated by the operational proposal would be compatible with the residential amenities of the NSLs (noise sensitive locations).’ 

He further added: ‘The applicant has failed to demonstrate that the noise and emissions affecting air quality would be compatible with the said amenities, and so I am not able to categorise the proposal as light industry.’

As a result, he said, because the area was zoned for light industry, he recommended the permission be refused. 

After receiving the inspector’s report, the board then voted by 2:1 to allow permission, albeit with a number of conditions.

It said: ‘In deciding not to accept the inspector’s recommendation … the Board was satisfied … that the proposed development would be compatible with the zoning objective for the site.’

A Save Our Skibbereen public meeting will take place in the West Cork Hotel on Thursday December 13th at 8pm to discuss plans to apply to the High Court for leave to bring judicial review proceedings.

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