Monday 8 December 2008

Unauthorised Wicklow quarry seeks to expand

WICKLOW COUNTY Council is to decide next week whether to allow an unauthorised quarrying operation to import up to 1,200 tonnes of stone per month.

O'Reilly Brothers quarry at Ballylusk near Ashford was found to be operating without planning permission, and not to be exempt from the requirement for planning permission, by An Bord Pleanála in 2003.

The Bord Pleanála decision was subsequently upheld by the High Court in December 2006, when Mr Justice John Quirke criticised the council's role in the affair, describing its documentation as "deplorable" and "rag-tag".

However, the quarry has continued to operate and on a number of occasions, when blasting was taking place, local people were asked by gardaí to leave their homes in the interests of safety.

Now O'Reilly Brothers Ltd has asked the council for planning permission to extend operations at the site, including an increase in the rate of extraction of up to 60,000 tonnes per year of stone.

The company has also asked the council for permission to retain existing screening along the northern boundary of the site, and for the retention of a 19sq m works canteen.

It has also asked the council to approve the importation of up to 300 tonnes of stone per week, along with a wheel-cleaning unit, a settlement lagoon, provision of an effluent treatment system and improvements to the existing quarry entrance among other ancillary works.

The council is due to decide on the application by December 11th.

Local residents have criticised the application, claiming they have "no faith left that the council will support the rule of law".

Residents, who said they did not want to be named, said they had initially objected to the quarry because of the noise, nuisance and the number of heavy lorries using a country lane.

A number said they had believed the quarry would be forced to close when the planning board and the High Court found against it, and questioned the council's efforts to enforce the court's decision.

Director of services for planning with Wicklow County Council Des O'Brien said an enforcement action taken by the council on foot of the Bord Pleanála and High Court decisions was due to come before the Circuit Court early next year.

He said the council was not in a position to "simply put a chain on the gate" but had to go through the courts.

He said the legal system frequently contributed to making enforcement a slow process, an aspect he claimed was seldom reported in the media.

He added that the council had successfully prosecuted a number of planning enforcement cases at Bray Circuit Court in recent times. These had included houses built without planning permission, unauthorised quarries and other infringements.

Attempts to secure a comment from O'Reilly Brothers over a number of days have not been successful.

Irish Times

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