In a letter from Cork County Council to the Southern Regional Fisheries Board (SRFB) in May this year, its enforcement section admitted planning permission should have been sought for gravel extraction on two acres of Skahanagh South site, at Watergrasshill, Co Cork.
“Two acres ... was stripped ... and approximately 1.25 acres of gravel was extracted. Planning permission should have been sought for this part of the development. However, as the unauthorised development occurred in 1994, the Planning Authority is statute-barred from taking enforcement proceedings,” the letter read.
The letter has been obtained by the Watergrasshill Community Association (WCA). Spokesman Barry Curtain asked why action wasn’t taken at the time.
“When you see how difficult it can be for someone looking to build a home to go through the planning process, you have to ask why this was allowed to happen.”
The WCA says quarrying is removing glacial till, which acts as a natural purifier for an aquifer on the site, the source of the community’s water supply.
“We’re drinking water which goes through glacial till with known scientific purifying effects. If you remove its natural filter, what have you left? The links with health problems may not be scientifically proven, but the public perception is there,” Mr Curtain said.
A county council reply to a complaint in 1999 that quarrying was taking place outside the legal boundaries said those involved had been told to desist.
Most of the 150-acre site is exempt from planning permission because it was not required for sites set up prior to 1963. However, six more acres were purchased in 1994 by John A Wood and quarrying took place on two of those.
The SRFB wrote to the county council expressing concerns about the impact of quarrying on water quality and requesting an environmental impact assessment. The council said there was no need because “as far as we are aware the current operational size of the quarry is less than that which requires an EIS”.
Earlier this year, the Environment Directorate of the European Commission confirmed it was investigating illegal quarrying in Ireland, and whether local authorities enforced measures against those in breach of planning conditions.
A spokesperson for the commission said they were not at liberty to comment.
No one was available to comment on behalf of John A Wood yesterday.