The minister driving the €1bn re-invention of Cork Harbour as a tourism, research, and innovation hub says waste firm Indaver faces a “real challenge” to convince him and the public of the merits of an incinerator in the area.
Food and Marine Minister Simon Coveney was reacting to confirmation that Indaver has opened talks with local stakeholders about the possibility of drafting new plans for an incinerator in Ringaskiddy.
In 2011, An Bord Pleanála rejected the company’s plans for a €150m toxic waste incinerator in the harbour, marking the end of a decade-long battle through the courts and the State’s planning process.
However, Indaver confirmed on Friday that it is re-engaging with community groups and other stakeholders on possible new plans for an incinerator in the area.
Indaver boss, John Aherne, said his company “learned lessons” from the 2011 planning decision and wants to “do things differently” this time.
However, Mr Coveney said the company faces a battle to persuade the public.
He is overseeing massive public investment in the clean-up of Haubowline Island, in the development of an ambitious tourism project on Spike Island, and in the creation of a multi-million research cluster based on renewable energy linked to University College Cork, Cork Institute of Technology, and the National Maritime College.
“The people in Cork Harbour will need a lot of persuasion that a large-scale waste incineration facility in Cork Harbour is consistent with what we’re trying to do,” he said.
“We are putting a lot of public money [into the various harbour projects], and I’ve put a huge amount of time and effort into building a new future for Cork Harbour which is based on innovation, technology, new ways of thinking,” he said.
“Obviously I am very sensitive to any big projects that may be proposed as part of that whole cluster of projects which are really going to change the way in which the country perceives Cork Harbour in the next few years.
“Indaver have a real challenge here to convince people like me and others that what they are proposing can fit in to that vision.”
He said the company has a right to consult with local stakeholders and bring forward a proposal.
“But there was a long and very difficult and drawn-out process which prevented Indaver from building an incinerator in the past,” he said.
“I think that they will have a difficult job convincing people that what may be proposed should be welcomed.
“But that’s up to the company to engage fully with all of the interests in the harbour.
“I don’t want to say that I’m not going to listen. Of course I will, but it’s up to the company to make a convincing argument.
“I think they will have their work cut out to do that. But let’s wait and see what they have to say.”
Mr Aherne said that the company has yet to draft formal proposals.
“Maybe we’ve had a bit of humble pie to eat. We have learned lessons from our mistakes,” he said.
“We’re trying to go out and talk to stakeholders and explain what the project would bring.
“Previously we presented a brochure with our plans as a starting point. We’re now listening to what people are saying first.”
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