Friday 23 March 2007

Allegations that 'something dodgy' is going on Further delay to sewage plant hearing slammed

A further delay to a crucial High Court hearing on Arklow's long-awaited sewage treatment plant at Seabank has prompted allegations that 'something dodgy' was going on.

Environment Minister Dick Roche and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern were called upon to urgently intervene in the case, which has dragged on for the past 12 years.

The case was due to be heard before Judge Clarke in the Commercial Court this week, but the case has been put back until May 8.

'That is downright disgraceful,' barked Cllr Peter Dempsey. 'Who caused this adjournment?', yelled Cllr Bill O'Connell.

Cllr Nicky Kelly dubbed the case 'the major scandal in the (legal) system at the moment', saying 'the town has been held to ransom for the past 12 years'.

The lack of any town sewage treatments facilities has severely limited development in Arklow and caused it to be one of Ireland's worst culprits for raw sewage outflows into the ocean.

Councillors learned of the delay after a letter from the council's solicitors was read out at last week's meeting, prompting a seething reaction.

Cllr Pat Fitzgerald wondered whether the recent planning application for a rival private sewerage treatment plant at Ballyraine Lower (which would be capable of catering for the town's needs) had anything to do with the delay.

'There's something peculiar going on here. I hope this application up the river here (at Ballyraine Lower) is not being taken into account by the judge.'

Cllr Bernie O'Halloran agreed, saying 'It seems there's something dodgy going on here. Had the (Ballyraine Lower) application been run of the mill, a decision would have been made before our hearing date.'

Cllr Donal O'Sullivan said if council planners found the Ballyraine Lower site had any merit 'it blows us out of the water, because we say ours (Seabank) is the best site.'

Cllr Peter Dempsey urged council officials to 'get the barristers here' to explain the delay.

'We're getting it in the neck out there (on this issue).

Bertie should make a ruling on it. We have been waiting too bloody long and I can't see anything being done before the election'.

Cllr Nicky Kelly vented his spleen, saying 'I don't care if the senior counsel of An Bord Pleanala is sick (which caused another delay to the case late last year). Get somebody else.

'We have the Minister for the Environment in our own county yet we can't fix the thing that is ruining our local environment.'

He said with three days of hearings scheduled, the judge would almost certainly reserve judgement then there was a likely appeal to the Supreme Court.

'We'll be here next October,' he said.

Council Director of Services Bryan Doyle, responding to a motion by Cllr Donal O'Sullivan, said he would write to An Bord Pleanala 'impressing on them the importance of this case'.

Wicklow People

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