Saturday 30 May 2009

Local anger as gardaí supervise blasting at unauthorised quarry

BLASTING AT an unauthorised quarry near Ashford in Co Wicklow has recommenced – under Garda supervision.

Ballylusk Quarry operated by O’Reilly Brothers (Wicklow) Ltd., on the outskirts of Ashford was judged to not have either planning permission or an exemption under the planning Acts, by An Bord Pleanála in 2003. A subsequent judicial review taken by O’Reilly Brothers against An Bord Pleanála was rejected by the High Court in 2006.

However operations have continued at the quarry and at least one local property owner was incensed when gardaí arrived and instructed him to leave his property during blasting in 2007 in the interests of health and safety.

This property, the closest building to the quarry, has since been sold, and on Wednesday the use of explosives recommenced.

Locals who have campaigned against the quarry for a decade said they are now so frustrated they are considering an appeal to the European Commission. A spokesman said there were few options left open to locals, “since the courts and Bord Pleanála have all held against this operation, but Wicklow County Council over all the years have not enforced the law”.

Senior planner at Wicklow County Council, Des O’Brien told The Irish Times the council had served a notice on the owners requiring them to cease unauthorised activity several years ago.

Mr O’Brien said the Planning Act required the council to get a court order to close the operation, and the District Court had refused the order on the basis that the O’Reilly Brothers had lodged a new planning application.

Mr O’Brien said the council had been unable to secure even a temporary injunction until the planning application was decided. Last December Wicklow County Council sought additional information in relation to the planning application and the applicants have until next month to reply.

Mr O’Brien said that on the basis of the court decision, the council told gardaí that it had no order against the quarry.

Gardaí must be present in all cases where explosives are used, said a Garda source.

Meanwhile the High Court has directed Wicklow County Council’s ethics registrar to carry out a fresh inquiry into a complaint by Green Party Senator Deirdre de Búrca that former Fianna Fáil councillor Facthna Whittle, who is a solicitor, breached ethics legislation by proposing and voting to rezone the quarry, without disclosing his law firm had acted for the quarry owner in legal proceedings.

Irish Times

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