A waste management facility could be opened at the old Asahi plant in Killala, without having to go through the planning process.
McGrath Waste is seeking to convert a unit close to the Schutz factory, and is arguing that the project is exempted development, and should not have to go before planners - or the general public. Last March, agents for McGrath Waste asked Mayo County Council for a declaration that, under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act, it didn't need to make a formal application to operate a waste sorting station. The company argued that refuse sorting did not constitute a change from the existing use of the unit which is defined as ‘industrial'.
When the county council told the company the proposed activity didn't fall within the definition of an industrial process, and, for that reason, would require planning permission, McGrath Waste went to An Bord Pleanala.
The company told the board it believed that refuse transfer and sorting was an industrial process, and permission already existed for this. The appeals board is currently considering the company's argument and is due to make a decision in the Autumn.
Some concerns have been expressed locally at the prospect of McGrath's being allowed to bypass the planning system.
Killala-based Cllr Jarlath Munnelly made a submission on the issue to the county council, expressing concern that the public could be excluded from an important decision affecting the area. In a letter to the authority, Cllr Munnelly questioned "the logic of locating a waste transfer station at this site."
"At the very least a planning application should be made to allow public consultation and due process," he told the Western People. "For all its faults, the planning process allows people to have an input into such a significant development. Let's face it, applications have to go before planners for the simplest projects, so it makes sense that something like this should be fully assessed in terms of its impact on traffic volumes and other aspects of life around Killala. There are a number of issues with this site, including asbestos roofing, which would need specialist attention."
Cllr Munnelly pointed out that Mayo Power Ltd has an application for a power plant on the same site, which is currently the subject of a planning appeal.
"I would question whether the developers would give their support to a waste transfer centre close to its own site. What we need for the industrial park are companies which will provide long-term sustainable employment."
The Fine Gael member acknowledged the importance of waste transfer and sorting systems, but questioned whether the Asahi plant is the right location.
"Separating waste for recycling works really well. It is something that needs to be addressed. Personally, I would have to be convinced that this is the right site. There are also a lot of fears locally about an incinerator being planned for the site. These are totally unfounded, but there has been a degree of paranoia about this site for several years."
A spokesperson for An Bord Pleanala told the Western People that a decision on whether a project is exempted development takes at least 18 weeks. The earliest date that a decision on this project is due is September 15.