Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Opponents walk out of hearing on explosives site

OPPONENTS OF plans to locate a €10 million explosives plant on the Shannon estuary are expected to apply to the High Court today to halt an An Bord Pleanála oral hearing under way in Ennis into the proposal.

Representatives of An Taisce, Cáirde Chill an Disirt Teo (CCDT) and three other individual appellants dramatically walked out on the first day of the oral hearing yesterday before any substantive evidence was heard.

The appellants are seeking to have Clare County Council’s decision to grant planning permission to Shannon Explosives for an explosives factory at Cahercon, Kildysart, overturned.

Counsel for CCDT Oisín Collins said he had no option but to withdraw and go to the High Court after the board refused to outline the scope of the hearing.

Mr Collins said that the hearing was either an appeal under Irish planning law or a review under an EU directive. He said he would now seek a determination in the High Court and would also apply for a stay on the proceedings and a determination by the board on the appeal.

Mr Collins said that the fault lay with the Government in not properly transposing an EU environmental directive into Irish law.

Representing An Taisce, planning consultant Peter Sweetman said: “I can’t continue. I cannot go out on to a football pitch and don’t know if we are playing rugby or soccer. That is the position the board has left us in. An Taisce will be withdrawing from this hearing, because it is absolutely farcical.”

Mr Collins, along with the other appellants’ representatives, requested that board inspector Conor McGrath adjourn the hearing in order for the board to go to the High Court and obtain clarification on procedures.

After taking legal advice from the board’s headquarters Mr McGrath said that he would not adjourn.

Counsel for Shannon Explosives Desmond Keane SC told the hearing: “There is no basis whatsoever for the adjournment of this matter. If the objectors walk out, that is a matter purely made by themselves, it is not in any necessitated or brought about by a decision that you have made.”

He added: “Forty to 50 people will be employed at the plant and the objectors cannot hold those people to ransom by virtue of deciding at the very, very last moment to raise this issue, which should have been raised a significant period of time ago.”

Mr Collins, Mr Sweetman and solicitor Michael Nolan walked out at 3.30pm yesterday along with the objectors after Mr McGrath said that he would not adjourn.

The planning saga has been going on for eight years. The company was previously refused planning permission for the proposal in February 2003.

Without a sod being turned on the scheme, the parent company of Shannon Explosives, the Whelan Group, has already spent €7 million on the project.

The Irish Times

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