Friday 22 June 2007

Wicklow quarry blasting blocked by residents

Residents of Ashford, Co Wicklow, are claiming a victory after gardaí refused to permit the use of explosives at a local quarry. Gardaí had previously facilitated the controlled use of explosives by O'Reilly Brothers (Wicklow) Ltd, at an unauthorised quarry at Ballylusk, by being present during blasting.
On these occasions, gardaí had asked neighbours to leave their properties while the blasts were taking place for safety.
When local residents received a letter from O'Reilly Brothers last week warning them of the planned use of explosives yesterday, they contacted gardaí to complain. Ballylusk quarry, they said, does not have planning permission and they asked if it was appropriate for gardaí to facilitate unauthorised activity.
They pointed out that, in 2003, An Bord Pleanála ruled work at the quarry was not an exempt activity and planning permission was required.
They said the ruling was upheld by the High Court in an unsuccessful action taken by O'Reilly Brothers last year.
Following the complaints, gardaí said they would not facilitate the blasting yesterday.
A spokesman for the Garda Press Office told The Irish Times a review of Garda co-operation had taken place following the High Court case.
Wicklow County Council is taking an enforcement case against the quarry operators and gardaí said they would be following the outcome closely.
Calls to O'Reilly Brothers Ltd were not returned yesterday. A spokesman for the company previously said it did not accept the quarry was an unauthorised development. He claimed it had been registered as a quarry by Wicklow County Council in 1994.
The spokesman said there had been continuous operation of the quarry since the late 1800s, predating the planning laws and obviating the need for formal planning permission.
The council did not return calls on the subject yesterday.
The locals refused to be named, partly because of an earlier agreement with the quarry owners, under which they accepted compensation for loss of amenity in return for a confidentiality clause.
Last December, Mr Justice John Quirke told O'Reilly Brothers Ltd that An Bord Pleanála had not erred when it ruled in July 2003 that the quarry was required to have planning permission.
He criticised Wicklow County Council's role in the affair, describing its documentation as "deplorable" and "rag-tag".
Tim O'Brien
© 2007 The Irish Times

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