High Court environmental rights constitution
The Four Courts Building Photo: Gary Barber

High Court quashes plastic factory planning permission

July 30th, 2019

The High Court has quashed permission for the construction of a plastic factory in Skibbereen that has been strongly opposed by local residents.

An Bord Pleanála today consented to the order from Mr Justice Seamus Noonan and accepted that its screening for appropriate assessment (AA) was in breach of requirements laid out by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

An AA examines the potential adverse effects of a plan or project on protected nature sites. The screening stage is used to determine if a full assessment will be required.

In the recent Irish People Over Wind case, the ECJ found that it is not appropriate to consider mitigation measures at the AA screening stage.

Brendan McCarthy, who brought the case against the Board’s decision, argued that that planning authority did just that in relation to the potential impact on the Ilen river.

The plant would be connected to Skibbereen’s wastewater Treatment Plant that in turn discharges into the river, with Mr McCarthy raising concern about possible contamination from plastic nurdles.

The Board’s inspector, however, found that the issue could be allayed by adding a balancing tank for the cooling water at the facility which would allow it to be serviced by the public stormwater sewerage system.

By doing so, Mr McCarthy claimed that the Board had outlined a mitigation measure during the AA screening stage in breach of recent ECJ decisions, including People Over Wind.

The Board is now tasked with re-evaluating the application from
Daly Products’ Ltd for the proposed factory “in accordance with law”.

Welcome decision

The decision was “welcomed” by members of Save Our Skibbereen (SOS), a local group with whom Mr McCarthy is involved that has opposed the project since early 2017.

“We are advised that it will take a year to 18 months for procedures between the Bord and Daly Products Limited to play out, and that no development can be commenced in that period,” the group said in a statement.

“We remain vigilant and ready to do whatever it takes to ensure that this dev elopement will never proceed.”

In December, ABP granted planning permission for the plastic factory despite reservations from locals over potential environmental and health issues.

In its decision, the Board said that its own inspector’s recommended refusing permission. The Board, however, determined that the development would not be likely to have a significant effect on nearby biodiversity and air quality in the surrounding area.

Daly Products has stressed the role of the factory in generating employment opportunities for rural Ireland in line with the County’s North and West Strategic Plan 2002-2020.

The SOS group argued that they were not adequately informed about the potential environmental and health implications of living nearby a plastic factory.

They said that they were also concerned about emissions from the plant and any possible chemical runoff to the town’s sewage treatment system.

Water contamination concerns

SOS has repeatedly voiced its concern about possible water contamination from nurdles, a by-product of plastic manufacturing.

Nurdles are inherently non-toxic. However, they began to act as sponges overtime and can absorb chemicals found in water such as DDT, a chemical compound used in insecticide.

Marine species often chow down plastic nurdles, mistaking them for fish eggs. If digested, chemicals adhered to the nurdles become absorbed into their tissues, making them potentially hazardous for humans to consume.

Chemicals added to plastics in the manufacturing process are believed to be readily absorbed by the human body, with some plastic compounds found to cause cancer or have other potential health impacts.

For example, Phthalate, a chemical added to plastic to make it softer, is known to cause infertility, congenital disabilities, and other health issues.

About the Author

Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.

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