Hundreds of people gathered in the ballroom of the Hotel Minella in Clonmel yesterday for the opening day of An Bord Pleanála's oral hearing about a keenly-contested plan to build a waste treatment plant in the south Tipperary countryside.
Planning inspector Derek Daly said the hearing could last for two weeks. A joint-venture company, Green Organics Energy Limited (GOE), is hoping to build a facility to process animal by-products from meat-processing factories and other biodegradable waste and to create "green" electricity and bio-diesel.
The site in the village of Rosegreen, is close to both Coolmore Stud and Ballydoyle stables and has attracted considerable local opposition. The opening session was attended by Tipperary TDs including Fianna Fáil's Dr Martin Mansergh and Mattie McGrath, Fine Gael's Tom Hayes and Independent, Michael Lowry - as well as local councillors - who have all publicly expressed opposition to the plan.
South Tipperary County Council has already refused planning permission for the project but the company has appealed to An Bord Pleanála. Coolmore Stud and other local businesses as well as residents have also lodged appeals hoping to persuade the board to uphold the council's decision.
Yesterday's formal proceedings began with a detailed submission from GOE, whose legal team is led by former attorney-general Rory Brady SC, who introduced the company's panel of expert witnesses.
The project's manager, Paul Barrett, claimed that the proposed facility would help to "maintain Ireland's green image" by using EU and government-approved technology to process animal by-products and "brown bin" kitchen waste.
He said the project would help to reduce greenhouse gasses and provide a solution to the Irish meat-processing industry which is currently engaged in the "unsustainable" practice of exporting its waste for incineration.
Mr Barrett said the bio energy facility would process 250,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste a year, including 30 per cent of all the animal by-products and slaughterhouse waste produced in Ireland. Dr Martin Hogan, a Cork-based health consultant retained by the company, rejected allegations that the facility would be harmful to human health. He said: "Let me state as a doctor that if it were shown that this project could really damage human health, I too would be an objector."
He claimed that the technology to be used in the plant is safe and effective and supported by organisations such as the EU and Friends of the Earth.
Michael Cunningham, managing director of environmental consultancy White, Young, Green, said a detailed assessment of the impact of the proposed development on the equine industry and Ballydoyle was undertaken and concluded that there would be no impact. The hearing continues today.
The Irish Times