THE DECISION by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission to the Port of Cork for a new €160 million container terminal was greeted with disappointment by the port, while local environmental campaigners hailed the decision as a vindication of the planning process.
The Port of Cork had applied to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act for permission to develop the new terminal on a 37-hectare site at Oysterbank in Ringaskiddy in the lower harbour to replace the existing container terminal at Tivoli.
An Bord Pleanála held an oral hearing into the application which ran for 15 days before its inspector Paul Caprani, but yesterday the board ruled that the proposal was contrary to proper planning for the area and refused the application.
The board said that while it accepted the need to move port activities from Tivoli Docks, it believed that the Ringaskiddy site was not adequately served by a road network capable of taking the extra traffic generated.
The proposal would result in much port-related traffic traversing the city road network and would exacerbate serious traffic congestion at strategic interchanges at Bloomfield, Dunkettle, Kinsale Road and the Jack Lynch Tunnel, said the board. Moving the container terminal to Ringaskiddy would also mean that it would be unable to use rail freight facilities and would therefore represent "a retrograde step" in sustainable transport planning, An Bord Pleanála ruled.
Port chief executive Brendan Keating said he was very disappointed with the decision but that the port would spend the next three months examining the decision and teasing out its implications for development.
"This is a setback and means that we must be vigorous and comprehensive with new proposals," said Mr Keating, adding the port would only look at seeking a judicial review of the board's decision as "a very last option".
Mr Keating said that the port will be able to continue operating at Tivoli up until 2012, but will face a serious challenge to cope with container traffic after that.
However, An Bord Pleanála's decision was welcomed by Cork Harbour Environmental Protection Association which had objected to the proposal and pointed out that the National Roads Authority had indicated that it would be 2011 before it could start upgrading the N28 to Ringaskiddy.
The protection association's solicitor Joe Noonan said the port plan was a bad proposal - a view that was shared by Cork County Council, the Department of Defence and the coastal zone management unit at the marine department, he said.
"The real thing that's needed is a master plan for the harbour and Cork County Council is recognising that - a plan that would take into account all of the various interests around the harbour such as tourism, residential, leisure and industrial, including port-related activities," said Mr Noonan.