AN BORD Pleanála has approved planning permission for a waste-water treatment plant at Lough Foyle against its inspector’s recommendation.
The board has granted planning permission for the secondary and tertiary treatment plant with an outfall at Carnagarve, Moville, Co Donegal, in spite of local opposition and concerns expressed by former SDLP leader and MEP John Hume and writer Brian Friel.
The board cites EU directives and the “current unsatisfactory situation regarding waste-water discharges from the towns of Moville and Greencastle to Lough Foyle” as the main reasons for its approval.
It has advised that a proposed pumping station at Glenburnie should be dropped from the scheme in the interests of environmental protection of a high-amenity shoreline.
Brian Friel, John Hume, his wife Pat and Michelle Gildernew in her capacity as then minister for agriculture and rural development in the Northern Assembly had expressed concerns about Donegal County Council’s plans for the scheme.
The Moville-Greencastle Environmental Group, which was among appellants, had challenged the council’s determination to secure approval for one particular location for the pumping station and outflow pipe into the Foyle.
The controversy about the project dates back over a decade, and in 2005 the local authority received Department of the Environment approval to proceed with the planning stage. The council said the scheme was required to “remove the existing raw sewage discharges into the Bredagh river and Lough Foyle, to comply with EU directives and to provide infrastructure for the development of Moville and Greencastle”.
However, the local authority’s preferred location in Carnagarve was not among the seven recommended after a public consultation. It identified Carnagarve as being suitable in spite of proximity to a beach and a popular coastal walking route at Lafferty’s Lane.
An Bord Pleanála, which was handling the planning application by the local authority, held an oral hearing in Redcastle in July 2009.
The Loughs Agency, which is responsible for both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough, had also expressed concern about the methodology adopted for hydrodynamic modelling in Donegal County Council’s environmental impact assessment, and the “potential impact of the proposal on the shellfisheries of Lough Foyle”.
An Bord Pleanála says in its ruling it “considered that it would not be appropriate to refuse approval for the scheme on the basis that the applicant had, in the course of the application, made a commitment to further improve the effluent discharge standard over and above what had been initially proposed and modelled”.
It also said that omission of a pumping station and outfall at Glenburnie had met its inspector’s concerns about this aspect.
It added that discharges would be monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Dr Don McGinley of the Moville-Greencastle Environmental Group said the group would meet to consider the decision.
Commenting in a personal capacity yesterday, Dr McGinley said the decision was “wrong”.
He claimed that it “did not address the fundamental deficits of information in the environmental impact statement” submitted by the local authority or the problems with its hydrodynamic study.