Controversial waste plant denied planning approval


published Saturday 12 July 2008


THE COUNTRY’S leading racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien said yesterday he was “over the moon” following An Bord Pleanála’s decision to refuse planning permission for a waste treatment plant close to his Ballydoyle Racing Stables and the Coolmore Stud in south Tipperary.

Mr O’Brien said the proposed development “would have destroyed Ballydoyle . . . closed us down and ruined all the land in terms of raising horses”.

A joint venture company, Green Organics Energy Ltd (GOE), had sought approval for the facility at Castleblake near the village of Rosegreen on a site which had traditionally been used for rendering animals.

The €100 million plant was intended to process waste from meat factories as well as household organic “brown-bin” waste. GOE planned to process the waste using a system known as anaerobic digestion to generate “green” electricity for the national grid and biodiesel for cars.

An Bord Pleanála, while acknowledging “the desirability of providing such facilities”, rejected the proposal claiming that it would be “prejudicial to the viability of the equine industry in this area”.

The planning authority noted that it is “the policy of the Government to support the equine sector” and the proposed development would be located “in an area of national importance for the bloodstock industry”.

Mr O’Brien said: “We are delighted here at Ballydoyle with this decision. I want to pay tribute to the many individuals and organisations throughout this community for their hard work in campaigning against this development.”

A spokeswoman for GOE said the company “has not had sight of the decision and will be reviewing it in detail when it is available.”

The decision and the inspector’s report have been posted on the Bord Pleanála website.

The venture was backed by three Irish companies, Dawn Meats, Bioverda (a unit of conglomerate NTR) and Avglade, a holding company controlled by Tipperary businessman Louis Ronan.

The proposal was the subject of a 12-day public hearing conducted by An Bord Pleanála in Clonmel last February which heard statements from expert witnesses and attracted large crowds including many employees of both Ballydoyle Stables and Coolmore Stud. The hearing was told that John Magnier’s Coolmore Group – one of the industry’s most successful operations – could be forced to relocate away from Co Tipperary if the plant received approval.

In his testimony, Aidan O’Brien claimed the proposal “would be a disaster” and negatively impact on the health of horses at Ballydoyle.

Former attorney general Rory Brady SC, who led the legal team for GOE, said the case was “fundamentally a clash between modernity and a fear of change”.

Paul Barrett, the project’s manager, claimed that such facilities were necessary “if Ireland is to succeed in meeting our commitments under the Kyoto Protocol”. He claimed the proposed plant would “displace up to 250,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum from fossil fuels, provide green electricity for 40,000 houses . . . and biofuel to fuel 32,000 cars per year.” The company said that the plant was essential for the Irish meat processing industry which is currently obliged to export waste for incineration.

Yesterday, Maurice Moloney of Coolmore Stud described the decision as “a great result for common sense” and expressed “a heartfelt thank you” to “the people of south Tipperary”.

The decision was also welcomed by local community activist group South Tipperary for Clean Industry. Spokesman Douglas Butler said: “This refusal will protect the environment and our well-established equine industry.”

The proposal had been opposed by politicians of all parties in Co Tipperary. Dr Martin Mansergh, a Fianna Fáil TD for the constituency, had told the hearing: “If we have to have dirty industry in this country, then a better place needs to be found for it, well away from human habitation and acutely environmentally sensitive activities.

Island generates sustainable future

Published in The Financial Times 15 April 2008

By Andrew Bolger, Scotland Correspondent


Cutting edge initiatives may not generally be associated with the Orkney Islands, whose sleepy pace of life tends to attract more holiday makers than policy makers.

But Westray, the largest of Orkney’s northern isles, is attempting something never before tried in the UK. In just four years it aims to become the first community to produce the equivalent of all of its energy needs from renewable sources.

Developing renewable energy is a key object of the Westray Development Trust, which was created in 1998 in an attempt to stem the brain drain from the island.

Now, while its population still stands at a meagre 600, the number is rising and the trust feels the island “has turned the corner”, according to William McEwen, one of the trust’s founders.

Sandy McEwen, who with her husband has refurbished several historic buildings on the island, is in no doubt that the commitment to sustainability is luring newcomers and helping to safeguard Westray’s future. “We are attracting creative people – painters and jewellery makers – and protection of the environment is very important to them,” she said.

A maths teacher at the island’s high school, Mr McEwen has created Orkney Bio-Fuels, which makes bio-diesel from used cooking oil collected from hotels, pubs, restaurants and chip shops. As well as supplying the islanders with cheap green fuel, the venture makes a modest income for the trust – enough, it is hoped, to hire a full-time employee.

Another idea of Mr Mc-Ewen’s is an electric taxi for Westray’s elderly and disabled residents. It is about to enter service after receiving funding from ScottishPower and the government. Wind turbines will charge the pollution-free vehicle’s battery.

A care centre for the island’s elderly has wind turbines and a ground source heat pump. A youth centre is partly heated by a 2.5kilowatt wind turbine since it opened eight years ago.

Lorna Brown, a youth development worker, said: “It’s great that our young people use electricity generated from the wind at their own youth centre. They are growing up with renewables and that can only be good for the long-term future of our island.”

Westray-based company Heat and Power aims to be the first company in Scotland to turn cattle slurry into fuel for cars. Colin Risbridger, the chartered engineer behind the initiative, is working on using silage and cattle waste. “Who knows? We could see every farm becoming either a filling station or a power station in the future,” he said.