We may have lost this battle, but the war isn’t over yet.

That is the defiant message from environmental campaigners in the wake of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to go against its inspector’s recommendation and grant planning for a controversial €160m waste-to-energy incinerator in Cork Harbour.

A GoFundMe campaign has now been launched to help campaign group, Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase), which has been fighting the project for 17 years, raise up to €200,000 to mount a possible legal challenge against the decision in the High Court.

Chase chairwoman Mary O’Leary said they were “shocked, angry, and deeply disappointed” at the board’s decision and will consult with their legal advisers over the coming days about a possible judicial review.

“The endless delays in coming to this decision was always a cause for concern but we hoped against hope that the board would make the right decision,” she said.

“For a third inspector to recommend a refusal of permission underlines the unsuitability of this site and really questions why the board saw fit to grant it, even in spite of the erroneous dioxin figures exposed on the final day of the 2016 hearing.”

In deciding not to accept its inspector’s recommendations, the board said waste-to-energy plants operate successfully in a range of urban environments and when well designed, operated and regulated, do not “unduly constrain neighbouring land uses”.

“The board considered that the development of a modern waste-to-energy facility would be compatible with continued development of the educational campus facilities in the area and with the ongoing improvement of tourism and amenities in the lower harbour,” it said.

“The board concluded that the proposed facility would integrate successfully with the multi-faceted nature of existing and proposed development.”

However, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who opposed the project in his constituency at its oral hearing in 2016, told the Dáil he felt a sense of deep disappointment and frustration at the decision.

“We are working hard to create something very special at the heart of Cork Harbour,” he said. 

“I can understand that people will be very angry and frustrated at this announcement and I share this sense with them.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the decision is completely incompatible with the overall strategy for the lower harbour.

However, Indaver Ireland’s managing director John Ahern welcomed the decision and said additional incineration capacity is required in Ireland if we are to break our reliance on exporting waste.

“Lack of incineration capacity in Ireland will see the State export an estimated 300,000 tonnes of municipal waste this year,” he said.

“This reliance on exporting our waste is not sustainable and exposes us to market shocks.”

John Ahern
John Ahern

He also quoted figures which show a 7% reduction in waste exports since the Poolbeg incinerator began operating last December.

Business group Ibec also welcomed the decision, which it said will help the country to comply with its obligations under the EU’s Waste Framework Directive.

In its order, the board also directed that €15,000 be paid to Chase to cover costs linked to its participation in the oral hearing.

The board said it was granting the costs because the group identified deficiencies in Indaver’s documents which led to the board issuing a further information request.

“This technical input by Chase served to inform the board’s assessment of the case,” it said.

Ms O’Leary said money will only be paid if Chase does not lodge an appeal.

Indaver, which lodged its first planning application for an incinerator in Ringaskiddy in 2001, lodged this application under Bord Pleanála’s strategic infrastructure fast-track process in 2016.

The proposed facility will treat some 240,000 tonnes of household, commercial, industrial waste, non-hazardous and suitable hazardous waste, and generate around 18.5MW of electricity for export to the national grid.

The company said that it is too early to discuss when the facility may become operational.

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