Plans for quarry beside Abbeyleix Bog put on hold

Published by Niall Sargent on

March 4th, 2020

Laois County Council has requested further information on a proposed new quarry close to Abbeyleix Bog that environmentalists argue will impact the nature site in the heritage town.

In January, Booth Precast Products Ltd applied for planning permission for a new sand and gravel quarry on 8.5 hectares of land on the outskirts of Abbeyleix and within touching distance of the well-renowned Abbeyleix Bog Project.

The proposed development would include the removal of 25,000m2 of topsoil, as well as the removal of trees and vegetation on site and would provide materials to the company’s nearby existing processing facility.

The planning application was swiftly met with objections from numerous residents, An Taisce, the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) and the Abbeyleix Bog Project team.

The council has now asked the company for further information and the planning application is on hold as the local authority awaits the requested information. Details on the requested information is not yet available.

Chris Uys of Abbeyleix Bog Project leading tour during Biodiversity Week 2018 Photo: Niall Sargent

Biodiversity haven

The Abbeyleix Bog Project was developed by the action group Abbeyleix Residents for Environment Action (AREA) that signed a 50-year lease with Bord Na Móna in 2010 to give the land to the community with a focus on conservation management.

Made up of around 200 hectares of diverse habitat – including degraded (although recovering) raised bogs, lag, cutaway, wet carr woodland, and meadows – Abbeyleix Bog is filled with an extremely high level of biodiversity.

Since restoration began on the Bog, there have been 557 species recorded including 197 animals (mostly invertebrates and birds, with a small group of mammals). Due to the community-based management style, the restoration project is exceptionally popular with the surrounding community.

The importance of the site was recently acknowledged by the East-Midlands Regional Assembly that listed it as a “strategic natural, cultural and green infrastructure asset in the region” in its regional, spatial and economic strategy for the next decade.

Chris Uys of abbeyleixbog explaining the absorption power and important role placed by sphagnum moss for flood mitigation Photo: Niall Sargent
Chris Uys of the Abbeyleix Bog Project explaining the absorption power and important role placed by sphagnum moss for flood mitigation Photo: Niall Sargent

Inadequate EIAR

A submission from Ricky Whelan, the chairperson of the Abbeyleix Bog Project outlined concern that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) – required under EU law – was “wholly incomplete” as it fails to address a number of key ecological issues and only mentions the bog “in passing” despite the likelihood that there is a hydrological connection between the sites.

In its submission, An Taisce also stated that the EIAR was incomplete and did not assess the potential impact on the Abbeyleix Bog. The environmental charity raised concern that no alternative options were properly addressed in the EIAR, such as the relocation of the existing processing facility to a site where a quarry is already in operation.

The IPCC said in its submission that Booth Precast’s application was incomplete as it “failed to acknowledge Abbeyleix Bog” that ithe IPCC described as an important conservation and amenity area “laced with international and nationally rare habitats”.

The IPCC also raised concern with the possible impact on the ecological integrity of the bog from stream, drain and surface water run off flowing from the proposed quarry that may be a “vector for pollution in the form of chemicals, nutrients and silts”.  

 “The IPCC could not support a development which has not assessed the environmental impact on neighbouring wildlife reserves or its impact in conjunction with other planning developments,” it said in its submission. Any decision by the Council in favour of the quarry would be appealed to An Bórd Pleanála, the IPCC added.

Submissions were also sent in by concerned residents, including those living in Grallow Wood that lies just 300m from the boundary of the proposed quarry site who outlined concern with the increase in traffic movement, including from heavy machinery.

“It is not acceptable that a road with a width of less than four metres can sustain such vehicle movement, along with current quarry traffic, normal road usage, bike users, pedestrians and dog walkers,” the residents cautioned in their submissions.  

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London