WICKLOW COUNTY Council has granted planning permission for the expansion of a quarry which it is currently prosecuting for operating outside the planning laws.
O’Reilly Brothers quarry at Ballylusk near Ashford was found to be operating without planning permission, and not to be exempt from the requirement for planning permission, by An Bord Pleanála in July 2003.
A subsequent appeal by O’Reilly Brothers was unsuccessful in a High Court judgment in November 2006.
Wicklow County Council subsequently began enforcement proceedings against the company, in the Circuit Court, under Section 160 of the Planning and Development Act, seeking orders to restrain O’Reilly Brothers from continuing unauthorised activity at Ballylusk.
But the quarry had continued operating, with gardaí on hand on a number of occasions to supervise the use of explosives for blasting. Gardaí also assisted in removing a neighbouring property owner who refused to leave his property during blasting.
Last December the council’s director of services for planning Des O’Brien told The Irish Times the council was not in a position to “simply put a chain on the gate” of the quarry but had to go through the courts to achieve enforcement orders.
The Courts Service yesterday confirmed the council’s enforcement action was still listed for hearing.
However, earlier this month the council approved an application from O’Reilly Brothers for the expansion of current operations, including an increase in the rate of extraction and processing up to a maximum of 60,000 tonnes per year.
It also approved retention of a 19 sq m canteen, continued importation of up to 300 tonnes of stone per week, as well as crushing and screening.
Also approved was provision of a wheel cleaning unit, settlement lagoon and hydrocarbon interceptor in addition to a new effluent treatment system and improvements to the existing quarry entrance.
The 25-year-permission was subject to 31 conditions in relation to pollution prevention and monitoring, definition of the site, road cleaning and warnings of blasting, as well as financial consideration payable to the council and restoration of the site among others.
A spokeswoman for O’Reilly Brothers said no comment was available yesterday, nor was one likely.
Wicklow County Council said its enforcement case remained live, at least until after the time for appeals to the council decision. Subject to no appeals, the spokesman said the permission “would regularise the situation”.
Locals said they were greatly upset by the permission. One resident who asked not to be named said they would definitely appeal to An Bord Pleanála. “But we are devastated. We won and we won in the High Court and we sought the protection of the law, all to no avail. Now there will be another appeal but it will take 18 months and in the meantime the quarry continues.”