CLARE COUNTY Council has granted planning permission for a contentious plan to construct a €10 million explosives plant along the Shannon estuary.
In the county's longest-running planning saga, the council yesterday gave Shannon Explosives Ltd the go-ahead to construct the plant at Cahercon pier, Kildysart.
However, the decision is unlikely to be the last move in the long history associated with the controversial plan and the decision is to be appealed to An Bord Pleanála by opponents of the scheme.
The Kildysart Explosives Factory Opposition Group yesterday confirmed that it would be appealing the decision to the appeals board and stated that if necessary, the group would take a legal challenge to stop the plan proceeding.
"We have opposed the plan for 7½ years and will oppose it for another 7½ years if necessary," the group claimed.
The council gave the plan the go-ahead, ruling that it would not seriously injure the amenities of the area and properties in the vicinity nor would it be prejudicial to public health and would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety.
Plans were first lodged for the scheme in 1999 and the council gave it the go-ahead in January 2001. The decision was appealed by opponents and An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission in March 2003.
Without a sod being turned, the Whelan Group, which owns Shannon Explosives Ltd, has already spent almost €7 million on the project. When operational, the plant will provide employment for close to 35 people and will contribute €3 million annually to the local economy through wages and outsourcing of services.
An Taisce and the Friends of the Irish Environment also opposed the plan.
A spokesman for the Whelan Group said the company welcomed the decision, but declined to comment further.
The spokesman for the Kildysart opposition group said: "We are not in the least surprised by the council's decision because it has never taken any of our views on board." The spokesman described the decision as a cop-out and expressed confidence that the decision would be overturned. "It is just passing the parcel to An Bord Pleanála."
He added that one of the conditions for the development involved road-widening and one of the owners of the land is a member of the Kildysart group who would not sell the land to allow Shannon Explosives to widen the route. "There is no willingness at all from the local landowner to sell."
Shannon Explosives has also to secure a foreshore licence as part of the planning application. "The bottom line is that if it becomes necessary, we will take a legal challenge," the spokesman said. He confirmed that his group would be seeking an oral hearing in relation to the appeal
During the planning process, Shannon Explosives told the Health and Safety Authority that the plant had no elements liable to cause a major incident.
The Irish Times