A CIRCUIT Court judge has said unusual circumstances led him to adjourn an application by Kerry County Council to imprison the operator of one of the region’s largest waste-recyclable operators for continuing to operate an illegal waste-transfer station near Listowel.
The station has been running for 4½ years without planning permission.
In July 2007, the Circuit Court, presided over by Judge Carroll Moran, ordered Eoghan McEnery of South West Bins Limited, to shut down his waste-transfer and dry recyclable plant at Carhooeragh, Kilmorna, Listowel, but granted a stay for 15 months. That had been extended again to April 2009.
There was no sign of Mr McEnery dismantling the business, Liz Murphy for Kerry County Council told the Circuit Civil Court in Killarney yesterday, and the council had no alternative except to bring a motion for committal against him.
Henry Downing, for Mr McEnery, said his client fully accepted he had to shut down and that he did not have planning permission, but he needed time to dismantle his operation and to move to an alternative site. “Because of the ‘not in my back yard syndrome’, my client has had extreme difficulty in getting an alternative site,” Mr Downing said.
The court heard of 26 attempts by Mr McEnery to find an alternative site, as well as efforts to acquire and merge existing sites with planning permission. It also heard how the planning process took several months.
Mr McEnery was now confident that a new site – nine acres, with industrial zoning but whose location he did not wish yet to disclose – would gain planning permission, Mr Downing said, possibly at the end of February.
With 10,000 customers in Kerry and west Limerick and more than 30 employees – 26 of them full-time – he was a significant employer in the region, and South West Bins was “an integral part of the waste management system” in the region, Mr Downing said.
Mr McEnery told the court that if his operation was shut down, he would go out of business. He had six competitors, including Kerry County Council, and he believed some of his competitors had “a big part” to play in objecting to him.
He had paid €1.1 million for a site in Dingle, but this would only cater for some of the plastics part of his recycling operation.
“With the boom, it was impossible to give what they [landowners] were asking. With the bust it is impossible to acquire money to buy the sites,” he said.
Judge Terence O’Sullivan said he appreciated it was very irregular for the courts to adjourn such an application, “but this is a rather unusual set of circumstances”.
“This businessman is a significant contributor to the economy. He employs 26 full-time people. It’s desirous that he should be able to carry on his business as best he can. I am satisfied he is attempting to relocate his business.”
He was “locked in the embrace of the planning process” and there was no wilful default by him. He adjourned the matter to before next Christmas. However, if he could not comply, there would be a requirement on him to cease his business, the judge added.