Clean Air Boost, Courtesy of Our High Court

There’s a sweeter smell in the air around Cork Harbour this sunny afternoon. You can hear the collective community sighs. After a three year wait we have a glimmer of hope in the form of a High Court decision that vindicates a committed community’s claim to a safe environment and clean air.

Today (Friday 19th Mar 2021) the High Court’s Mr Justice David Barniville ruled that Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE) was entitled to succeed on 2 of its 11 grounds of challenge to a planning permission granted by An Bord Pleanála in May 2018.

This is not a complete victory, not just yet. But, it is another skirmish won in a long war to protect our health and environment. Hard to believe that it’s now been over 20 years that we have opposed this proposed pollution and, thankfully, not a single sod has been turned on the site. This is a testimony to the perseverance and resilience of the people and their supporting communities, united in this campaign.

Sean Cronin, Zero Waste Ireland

While there is a lot yet to digest and final orders to be made in the case later in regard to the 241-page judgment, we must be optimistic with this long awaited decision.

  1. As expected, the judge found ” the board’s decision to grant permission (by 5 to 2 votes) was affected by objective bias by reason of prior involvement of one of its members”.
  2. Justice Barniville also found in favour of CHASE in relation to certain arguments made concerning the interpretation of Strategic Infrastructure Development provisions of the 2000 Planning Act.

We salute the fortitude and perseverance of the communities involved and we keep our collective green fingers crossed for a just outcome.

Will it quash the decision?

Not quite yet but, David Holland SC for the group, will now apply for this to be done. Maybe, the most likely decision will be to return the decision to an Bord Pleanala (APB) to review.

They will , however, be doing so within an EU backed Circular Economy world. This ZeroWaste ,adopted Government policy, drives our climate change mitigation efforts and it would be a foolhardy person indeed who reverts back to a pre-circular mindset.

We hold our breath until April 13 when the matter is back for mention in the High Court, after both parties have made further submissions on the Judge’s 241 page decision.

Short chronology of events.

December 2000: Indaver purchase the former Irish Ispat site at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, for an undisclosed sum.

April 2001: Indaver begin unveiling a series of plans for a hazardous waste and commercial incinerators. October 2001: Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE) was established to safeguard the harbour environment and promote zero waste solutions. The umbrella group mobilizes communities across the harbour and city areas.

November 2001: Indaver apply to Cork County Council for planning permission. CHASE and other environmental groups respond with street protests and over 30,000 letters of objection, delivered to the Co Council HQ.

April 2003: A contravention of the county development plan proposal was rejected by councillors, voting 30-13 against rezoning.

June 2003: Indaver appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála.

October 2003: CHASE along with more than 20 other parties lodged counter-appeals and an oral hearing took place in September/October

The result? Senior planning inspector Mr Philip Jones recommended refusal of planning on 14 specific grounds

January 2004: An Bord Pleanala (ABP) surprisingly decided to override his recommendations and grant planning to Indaver for a hazardous waste incinerator.

March 2004: Ringaskiddy and District Residents’ Association and 11 harbour area residents applied to the High Court for a judicial review of that decision.

February 2008: – application refused by the High Court