Thursday 8 November 2007

Status of Allen Quarry Unclear

Campaigners want clarity on Hill of Allen development

Hopes of an early determination by Kildare County Council on the status of the Roadstone quarry at the Hill of Allen were dashed this week.

The campaign group Hill of Allen Action Group had invoked a section of the planning laws which forces the council to declare whether a development is exempt or not. A response was due last Friday, November 2, but instead the council has sought further information from the group. While disappointed, the group say they are studying the request and have pledged to respond fully.

There’s also no end in sight to negotiations on the agreement between the council and Roadstone, three months after they began. The agreement is intended to provide the basis for the regulation of the land by the council, but campaigners fear it will mean Roadstone doesn’t have to get planning permission for it. A council spokesman told the Leinster Leader that “technical issues” had prevented the conclusion of the agreement as early as they would have hoped. “We are hopeful that agreement will be concluded in the very near future but at this stage we’re not predicting a date.”

A spokesperson for the Hill of Allen Action Group reacted angrily to the news. “This is a delaying tactic so that Roadstone can continue to blast away our heritage without any interference. It’s been more than a year since they were first instructed to get planning permission for the quarry, and between one thing and another, they’ve managed to continue quarrying at a ferocious pace without any regulation.”

Furthermore, the Leinster Leader has learned that even when the agreement is finally reached by council officials and the company, it will not have to be ratified by councillors.

“The agreement will be an executive function. As soon as it is finalised it will be entered into the planning register and will therefore be, ipso facto, a public document available to all,” a county council spokesperson explained. “It’s not a matter that requires the input of councillors.”

But the spokesperson for the Hill of Allen Action Group wasn’t impressed. “This is yet another example of the council’s complete lack of transparency in this matter. The councillors are elected to represent the people and they are not being allowed to have a say on such an important issue. This is proof, if ever it was needed, that the council is not going to open up this process to anyone.” The spokesperson added: “Fundamentally, if you have a quarry in this country, you should have permission for it. It seems the council and Roadstone are trying to avoid that inconvenient fact. No wonder they’re being so secretive!”

“It’s not only odd, it’s very, very unfair,” said Cllr Pat Black, one of a number of local councillors who have raised the matter at council meetings. “It’s unfair that those who have been democratically elected by the people of Kildare have no say in the matter, and I personally will be making a very strong appeal to the Minister for the Environment to have his officials examine this case in detail.”

Cllr Fiona O’Loughlin said she was, in the first instance, “totally opposed to the fact that an agreement will be in place without the company being required to go for planning permission with full public consultation. Every other process is flawed,” she said. “Having said that, I am opposed to any agreement that does not include a provision for an Environmental Impact Statement, a process for public consultation, and a commitment not to further erode the profile of the Hill.”

Conor McHugh
Leinster Leader

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