Friday 15 August 2008

Public hearing into 'super-dump' to be reopened

AN BORD Pleanála is to reopen its public hearing into the proposed 500,000-tonne capacity "super-dump" near Lusk in north Dublin, to consider a new report that criticises Fingal County Council's archaeological assessment of the site.

The report by a leading expert in Iron Age archaeology, Prof John Waddell of NUI Galway, was commissioned by the planning board, following the advice of Minister for the Environment John Gormley.

Prof Waddell found several deficiencies in the archeological report carried out by Fingal, the local authority seeking permission for the landfill, which he said was poorly structured and "remarkably brief" and perfunctory in places.

The report could jeopardise the council's chances of gaining planning permission for the dump even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already proposed granting it a waste licence to run the facility.

An Bord Pleanála originally conducted a hearing in October 2006 into the council's plans for the landfill at Nevitt, Lusk, which would take 16 per cent of waste produced by the greater Dublin region.

The board had been due to give its decision in relation to the landfill in October 2007, but deferred its ruling and the following month sought the direction of the Department of the Environment in relation to the archaeological issues that had been raised during the hearing.

In December 2007 the department told the board that further archaeological investigations of the site should take place.

In a follow-up letter in February of this year, the department said Mr Gormley wanted an independent expert on Iron Age Ireland to assess the archeological evidence.

The board then commissioned Prof John Waddell to conduct the report. On the basis on his report and to assess "any significant evidence which has come to light" since 2006, the board will reopen the hearing on September 9th next.

The council's archeological report consisted of a 37-page introduction followed by 12 appendices.

The introduction was "noteworthy for the limited analysis offered of the archeology of the surrounding landscape and the brevity of the analysis of the archeological sites identified within the area of the proposed development," Prof Waddell said.

One particular landscape feature at Knightstown, which was a possible archaeological monument, is listed by the council, but there was "no indication that any fieldwork was undertaken" to assess its significance he said.

The council said the National Monuments Service found no evidence to suggest that the Knightstown feature was a national monument.

It said it did not agree with Prof Waddell's assessment that there were deficiencies in its archaeological report.

A spokeswoman said the council was looking forward to a speedy conclusion of the hearing.

"Assuming development consent is then granted by An Bord Pleanála and a full waste licence is issued by the EPA to build and operate a new landfill at Tooman/Nevitt, Fingal County Council proposes to proceed with the project at the earliest opportunity."

The Nevitt Lusk Action Group which is opposing the dump said the weight of evidence showed this was the wrong site for such as facility.

"How unsuitable does this site have to be before Fingal County Council see sense and abandon their plans?" group spokeswoman Gemma Larkin said.

Dr Waddell's report confirmed the group's own objections in relation to the council's archaeological report, Ms Larkin said.

"From the beginning we have stated that this site is wrong for this kind of development and the archaeological survey demanded by An Bord Pleanála found such important evidence that the hearing must now be reopened."

Last September the EPA announced its proposal to grant a licence for the dump. Following objections it held an oral hearing last March. It is unlikely to give a final decision on the licence until the planning hearing has ended.

The Irish Times

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