Thursday 23 April 2009

Council using non-compliant quarries

KERRY COUNTY Council has admitted it is buying material from some quarries which are not in compliance with planning for their operations, and in a small number of cases is purchasing material from operators in the county who have been in serious breach of planning.

The quarries and their operators are the subject of warning notices issued by the council’s planning department in recent months, and a small number of the suppliers were the subject of enforcement proceedings.

Senior officers said the council would stop purchasing material where serious breaches continued. However, the quarries would be allowed some months’ grace.

The admission was made to Independent councillor Brendan Cronin, who asked for details of all unauthorised quarries in Kerry which were the subject of active enforcement proceedings, and details of all quarries and if any of these were supplying materials to the council.

Mr Cronin said the fact that the council was purchasing some of its materials from operations not in compliance with planning was not good enough from a public confidence point of view.

“We cannot be the police officers and be purchasing from them at the same time. It’s sending two different messages out and undermines public confidence.”

The director of planning, Michael McMahon, told the councillor in a report there were 20 quarries against whom warning letters had been issued over recent months “regarding various levels of non-compliance” after planning officers visited them to check on planning conditions laid down by the council on registration in 2004.

He believed there had been a positive response from most of the 20, but a small number would be the subject of enforcement proceedings.

There were also seven quarries unauthorised, and enforcement proceedings were in train against these.

Two of these were also supplying the council, according to documentation released to Mr Cronin.

“There are people out there at the moment from whom we are purchasing material not in 100 per cent compliance with planning conditions,” Mr McMahon told a council meeting.

However, he said the requirement that quarries register with the planning authority was comparatively recent. Quarries had been unregulated since 1964 and had only been brought into the process in 2004.

Mr McMahon said planning officers would be revisiting to check on compliance with conditions imposed by the council, and it was reasonable to allow people time to get their houses in order.

The council’s head of finance, John O’Connor, told this month’s council meeting that Mr Cronin was “preaching to the converted”. In future where the planning office discovered a serious breach, the council would stop purchasing material from the operator and there would be no period of grace.

Irish Times

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