In my opinion the best thing to come out of the government negotiations is that Katherine Zappone is now at the cabinet table. That’s all I‘m saying on the matter – I don’t want to lose readers. Over the weekend I learnt a new fact about the Dáil chamber – it used to be a lecture theatre!
Anyway, day twelve, Monday 9th May. The day began with the Inspector informing us that the Department of Defence will be returning on Wednesday with a response to Indaver’s response. My dad also put it on record that everyone left the hall on Thursday’s sitting, in protest to the Dixon Brosnan report being read out, as that would not have been recorded audibly.
The first point to be raised was on the status of the IMERC, Haulbowline and Spike Island masterplans. Paul Murphy, Cork County Council, told us that the Spike Island masterplan is the most comprehensive of the three, and the other two are not so.
Later on in the day, Cllr Marcia D’Alton came back with a response from Minister Simon Coveney, who was at the centre of drafting these plans in his previous department. He’d said it was “outrageous” that CCC suggested these plans were vague – all of it is deliberate and very concrete.
There were issues of accessing the plans brought up, with the Inspector saying the Spike Island plan was very easy to find online but the other two not being the same. Paul Murphy said the plans would be printed and made available to the hearing.
Anyway, back to the morning. The Inspector listed three sites that made the final list during Indaver’s site selection process, and then asked of the planning and site evaluation experts from Indaver, Why did you limit yourselves to these?
Dave Coakley, land use and planning policy expert, replied that the sites were all good as they’re zoned for industry and are strategic employment areas, so from a policy perspective these areas merited it.
Fiona Patterson from ARUP, Indaver’s expert on site suitability and alternatives, referred us to Appendix 3.1 of the EIS, sections 3.3 and 3.4, which respectively look at the current status of the sites considered in 1999 and Kilbarry Site. She also referred us to section 3.2.9 of Chapter 3 of the EIS, looking at the 2015 site evaluation.
Dave Coakley told us that the Cork Metropolitan Area is where most of the waste is produced, so that’s why they chose this site. Patricia O’Sullivan, planning consultant for CHASE, stated in response that the population of Cork is only one third of the population of the Southern Region – so were any other counties in the Region looked at? Fiona Patterson referred her to section 126.96.36.199 of Ch. 3 of the EIS, which looks at Limerick as an alternative.
(By the way, I’m writing this with a cup of coco next to me – I hope everyone is drinking the same.)
Mary O’Leary, chairwoman of CHASE, raised the point that there are 895,000 people living in the other counties, and here we are with 200,000 people – so the incinerator should logically be located in the middle. My dad Gordon Reid asked if mathematical optimisation had been used – basically the calculation looks at where most of the waste comes from, and finds out where it should go to use the minimum truck journeys.
John Ahern answered, by talking us through the site selection process in 1999, concluding that Ringaskiddy was just the best site, and it got better as it was then industrially zoned. On district heating, he added, there would be 24/7 users in the industries neighbouring. He didn’t answer the question the first time.
Later Seán Cronin from Zero Waste Alliance asked if a matrix evaluation had been used for site selection, specifically in regard to district heating. Rory Mulcahy, senior counsel for Indaver, reiterated what John Ahern said – that there would be 24/7 users of district heating – and said that the man posing the question had ignored what Mr Ahern said.
Fiona Patterson returned to speaking about site selection – and she was interrupted by solicitor for CHASE Joe Noonan, who stated that Seán did not ignore Mr Ahern, rather he addressed the point, and said an answer was wanted to the question.
We had silence for a few seconds, before Ms Patterson continued what she was saying – to be interrupted again by a number of people. The Inspector now posed the question: had a matrix evaluation been used? Ms Patterson replied in the negative, to audible dissatisfaction from those present.
Patricia O’Sullivan called the application premature on two accounts: that it includes district heating but there is no real life facility for this; and that an incinerator by nature produces ash, but there is nowhere to dispose of it [as a landfill isn’t specified]. This brought the discussion back to Bottlehill and the issue of where to dispose of ash, with Rosie Cargin, Kinsale Environment Watch, saying the unsolved question disturbs her. If there’s no place for bottom ash, she continued, this is an incomplete application and should be rejected.
Marcia then alerted us to how Poolbeg will be coming onto the waste stream soon, and we already have Carranstown, so all three together with a limited amount of landfill in the country will mean bottom ash will have to be exported – which is contrary to Indaver’s policy.
The conversation was brought back to the topic of the mathematical optimisation – Dad had been told by John Ahern that there was a calculation done, but wasn’t told where [in the EIS] it was. Rory Mulcahy replied that the calculation is not in the EIS, it was in Mr Ahern’s answer, and my Dad argued that Mr Ahern had only let us know that a calculation existed, not where.
Dad then asked Conor Jones, manager of Indaver’s Meath facility, to provide evidence that Ringaskiddy would meet 91% efficiency in exporting steam for district heating. Mr Jones’ reply was that that wasn’t necessary as, in other countries, their experience was that it was easier to meet R1 standard with steam than electricity. Dad kept pressing for evidence of how efficient steam export would be; later to realise it didn’t need to be 91% efficient, just 0.65×91% – but the main point was they hadn’t given any evidence of efficiency at all.
Dad also raised the point of the Southern Waste Region asking for information on the climate correction factor and the removal of Japanese knotweed, and not receiving a response from Indaver on either point. The Inspector questioned the basis for the question, and my dad replied simply that the question needed to be posed again as Indaver didn’t answer the SWR.
We had our mid-morning break, and when I was dashing off for some tea I noticed the Indaver people holding a tense meeting in the little glass porch outside the side door.
We returned at midday to Joe Noonan asking why a ten year planning permission period is needed for a strategic infrastructure development, adding the request that John Ahern answer. Fiona Patterson began to speak instead, to Joe interrupting to request again that Mr Ahern answer. Following a bit of back and forth, Joe gave us the backstory of the application, from when Indaver and An Bord Pleanála started talking in 2012, leading to the application being put in in January 2016. Kilogrammes of EIS were then given to the public to inspect within a few weeks.
Joe added that Mr Ahern is standing behind a train carriage of people who pass questions on to the others who equally don’t want to answer, and stated that he does have an issue with not being able to ask a question of Mr Ahern.
Rory Mulcahy replied that there was no basis to say Mr Ahern is hiding behind anything, and himself and the Inspector agreed that there was no problem with Mr Ahern passing the question on to someone else whom he saw as more capable of answering it.
The issue of the applicant’s identity came up, with Joe asking if we could take it that the applicant is Indaver NV. Rory Mulcahy replied that the applicant is Indaver Ireland, which is a registered business name under Indaver NV. Joe then asked if we could take it that the applicant is Indaver NV trading as Indaver Ireland; my notes don’t record an answer.
In the opinion of many people Marcia had flattened Indaver after her questioning. Evident again and again was that she simply knew a lot more than Dave Coakley did on the issues raised – Mr Coakley would refer her to a document, and Marcia would reply that she’d worked on drafting it.
She raised the issue again that with our two incinerators – Carranstown and Poolbeg – and the cement kilns coming onto the waste stream, we will surpass the needed capacity for waste disposal. She argued that in terms of sustainability, there is so much more we can do; giving the example of a super-efficient incinerator in Japan, she said this is what is meant by “integrated waste treatment”. But this facility is too small.
“Just because something’s smaller, doesn’t mean it still isn’t too big.” Elaborating, Marcia gave us figures of the changes in the building dimensions from the last application and now. Back then it was four storeys high, now we’re told it’s eight; the height used to be 42.5m, now we’re told it’s 50.7m; the stack was higher then, now it’s 75m.
Marcia gave a list of beautiful natural amenities around the country, including the Wicklow Mountains and Ballincolling Regional Park – asking Mr Coakley, would you build an incinerator there? He didn’t answer.
The final question related to point 3.8 in Mr Coakley’s witness statement, which was in response to a question form Marcia. Part of his response stated that the coastal part of the site is not a deep-water area and wouldn’t result in the loss of the harbour side land. Marcia called this “the saddest thing you’ve said at this hearing”, and added that the stretch of water in question is used for recreation, education, and marine activities. “It is the best possible and the last available”.
Just before the lunch break, Chris Ramsden told us that the WHO exclusionary criteria for such a facility advise against putting an incinerator next to sensitive materials. Giving us the example of Hammond Lane, Chris said they regularly break up cars in broad daylight, and we often see mysterious, spontaneous fires breaking out. He asked if Indaver considered this; Fiona Patterson replied by way of reference to the EIS.
Following the lunch break we heard again from solicitor Frank Kelleher, who spoke on Monday 25th April about the real identity of the applicant, and was here today responding to Indaver’s response to his objection.
Frank suggested that his objection had been misinterpreted by Mr Mulcahy, stating that he never said Indaver are not entitled to own the land as was claimed. He reiterated that only a legal person can own land, and that if it is in the name of a business name the registry is null, and so precluding anyone from using the land.
Frank called on the company to produce the title instruments to clear up the issue, and reminded us that with all the confusion over who owns what, state bodies and people would come across difficulties in trying to prosecute against Indaver. Frank put the offer on the table to inspect the title instruments, concluding that if Indaver don’t produce them, the Board has to refuse the application.
Rory Mulcahy replied that the Board was not required to look into the matter, and added that Frank was not responding to his letter but was only reiterating his objection. Frank asked if the position was that he wasn’t going to get permission to inspect the title instruments, and Mr Mulcahy confirmed that.
Rosie Cargin asked Frank to clarify that in the event of an accident, with the current situation, one would not be able to prosecute against Indaver Ireland and be compensated. Frank confirmed that, yes, Indaver Ireland is only a business name, and you can’t prosecute against that.
The questioning of the expert witnesses continued, with the issue of equity coming up. Fiona Patterson came under criticism for the final WHO exclusionary criterion quoted in her witness statement – “Inequity, resulting from an imbalance on unwanted facilities of unrelated function or from damage to a distinctive and irreplaceable culture or to people’s unique ties to a place.”
Ms Patterson’s response in her statement is that the site is zoned, Ringaskiddy is an industrial area, the need for the facility is recognised in the Regional Waste Plan – and that no culture or unique ties to a place will be effected.
The first person to address the issue was Marcia, and then Nick Upton from Cork Environmental Alliance. He asked Ms Patterson what research she had done to reach the above conclusion, and she responded by reiterating the guideline and her response. Nick asked what qualified her to say that, going on to say that she has one opinion as a landscaper but the locals have another opinion as residents of the area. So what makes your opinion more important? he asked.
Mark Elmes concurred, asking what gave Ms Patterson the right to speak for him, and saying that the application certainly will effect the locals, adding that it’s outrages to suggest otherwise.
Questions then were put to Conor Jones on truck mobility. The Inspector asked if deliveries of waste have a scheduled time to arrive at the Carranstown facility, and Mr Jones replied that yes, they do, and here the same will form part of the Mobility Management Plan.
Mamie Bowen raised several points relating to the L2545, including that waiting trucks cannot park there because of the bus terminal, asked too how they would deal with traffic from the crematorium – would they stop the funeral? She added that the fact they need an MMP shows this application is not workable.
After a short break we moved on to visual assessment, and the question was put by Mamie, did Indaver take photographs of what the facility would look like from the water? The answer from their expert John Kelly was that they did but thought it unnecessary to include them in the EIS.
Nick Upton asked John Kelly about why he cited twice in his witness statement the views of the chief executive of Cork County Council, which were that the building would not be visually dominant. Nick asked if this was Mr Kelly’s opinion, because if it wasn’t how could he cite the chief executive, and if it was how could he stand over that?
Mr Kelly acknowledged that he did cite the chief executive, and Nick asked if he was saying the building wouldn’t be visually dominant. Mr Kelly replied that it depends where you view it from.
Seán Cronin asked John Kelly if he’d gone on walking tours around Spike Island to take photos from there, to which Mr Kelly replied that he hadn’t. Seán added that the Martello Tower would be obstructed by the incinerator from Spike Island.
Marcia then began her questioning to Mr Kelly, which began with the concept of compromise. She said the residents could accept the Port needing to be next to the Harbour, and the windmills need to be that big, and the pylons are necessary, but that there is no compromise in this situation.
She told us about one of the first industries to come to the area, and the locals thinking this was a fantastic idea, until they saw how visually dominant the building was. She said this building was responsible for the foundation of the Ringaskiddy Residents Association.
Anyway, the company put mitigating landscape into play – basically planted lots of trees and shrubbery around their building to hide it and make the area look nicer. Marcia stated that that couldn’t be done here.
(I don’t believe John Kelly was actually giving a response to much of this.)
Later Marcia pointed out how the now former Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht requested photos of what the building would look like from the top of the Martello Tower. She said Indaver’s response was that the top of the tower is not accessible, and the reason for that response is that the visual impact is actually terrible.
At the end of the day Mary O’Leary criticised John Kelly’s saying the site will be a “campus-style development” because it will have 2.4m high fencing around the parameters. My notes describe Mr Kelly’s response in three words: “We have trees.”
Rough schedule for coming days:
Wednesday, we will hear from the Department of Defence in the morning, and following that we will have questions on air quality, dioxins, and human health – my dad will be participating in all three. Drama is to be expected. Also, as Julie Ascoop wasn’t available, debates on coastal erosion have been pushed further back – possibly Wednesday/Thursday.
On Thursday we’ll also have ecology and cultural heritage. Anyone can ask a question, you don’t have to be an expert!
I’ve also heard that RRA are planning a protest on the last day of the hearing (we don’t yet know when that will be) but when I get more details I definitely will post them here.
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