Saturday 10 March 2007

Carry on up the quarry

IN 2002, An Bord Pleanála (ABP) ruled that a Galway quarry, owned by brothers Myles and Michael Valentine Welby, required planning permission. Over four years later, the brothers are still quarrying away in Moycullen without it.
The Welbys and their company M&M Caireal Teoranta (MMC) were referred to ABP by local resident Tomas O Cadhain and wife Bernadette Coyne, who claimed the Welbys had intensified quarrying illegally. Galway County Council maintained that the quarry was in fact exempt from planning permission as it had operated since before 1963 but ABP inspector Robert Ryan decided otherwise. Interestingly, Ryan also observed that the bitter local row hadn’t been helped by “the absence of detailed information from the planning authority”. The lack of any official response from the Galway County Council, Ryan said, was “most regrettable indeed”.
After the ABP ruling, Council officials say they issued enforcement proceedings against the quarry. The brothers, however, sought a judicial review of the enforcement, which has put a halt to any proceedings, according to planning official Noel Burke. However, the High Court actually adjourned the judicial review back in 2004 with leave to re-enter but no enforcement proceedings have since been issued.
Council officials also point to the Dundalk Town Council v Bill Lawlor case of March 2005, when judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill ruled an enforcement notice to be lacking in clarity and invalid as a result.
Apparently, this has convinced some Galway officials that they may no longer have a case for enforcement against the Welbys. Nevertheless, there was no attempt to halt quarrying in the 13 months between the adjournment of MMC’s judicial review and the decision on the Dundalk case.
Happily for the Welbys, the Council continued to buy material from them for use on the EU-funded R59 road, for example (see The Phoenix, 14/7/06). Officials told Goldhawk, however, that the quarry is now no longer an official supplier having been placed “in error” on the list of eligible companies last year before being swiftly removed.
Ironically, the reason for its removal was that MMC didn’t comply with the Council’s own regulations on planning permission.
Meanwhile, MMC has built up a pile of cash, with accumulated profits for 2005
standing at close to €1m. The last two financial years have seen the company make an operating loss, however, and the loss of Council business will hurt the Welbys more, but the charmed brothers did manage to get a €66,000 grant from Údarás na Gaeltachta a few years ago despite MCT not being based in the Gaeltacht , so anything is possible.
© The Pheonix

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