A HIGH court judge has ruled that a stone quarry at Slane, Co Meath, which employs 50 people, constitutes unauthorised development and is operating without the required planning permission.
Mr Justice John Hedigan also referred papers in the case to the DPP after finding there were grounds to suspect a "carefully-planned" effort to subvert the planning process by altering or forging an official form to the advantage of quarry owner, Patrick Shiels.
He upheld arguments by Meath County Council that operations intensified at the quarry since 2004, when it was purchased for €1 million by Mr Shiels, amounting to a material change of use for which planning permission was required.
He noted local residents had complained from 2006 about long hours, dust, noise and explosions. Less than 20 loads of stone daily were taken from the quarry in 2004 but that had increased to 60 loads. Blasting was now common and there was no objective evidence of blasting before 2006.
The judge was told a planning application had been lodged on October 15th and he adjourned to next week the issue of final orders in the case. The judge said the court should make orders restraining unauthorised development and prohibiting intensification of quarrying .
Mr Shiels had urged the judge to take into account that the quarry employs 50 people and provides stone to major infrastructural projects such as the M50.
Restriction to 20 loads of stone per day, as sought by Meath County Council, would put him out of business, he said.
Mr Justice Hedigan said Mr Shiels was on notice from 2006 of the council's concerns and the complaints of local residents but had acted in deliberate and conscious disregard of council attempts to ensure compliance.
The judge said evidence before the court had indicated Mr Shiels had fabricated evidence "on at least one occasion" in the hearing - a page on the 2004 quarry registration form stating its output would be up to 100 loads per week. Mr Shiels had said that page was submitted in error and his version of the form provided for up to 1400 loads per week.
The judge said there were grounds to suspect a serious and carefully-executed effort was made to subvert the planning process. He said he would refer papers in the case to the DPP with a view to criminal proceedings.
The Irish Times