Lack of enforcement of environmental laws ‘a national scandal’
crime and justice |
Monday July 23, 2018 20:47 by foie - Friends of Irish Environment
Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment - 23rd July 2018
Council planner ‘unable to do any enforcement files’
Blames 40% reduction in staff
A west Cork County Council’s planner was ‘unable’ to investigate an enforcement complaint ‘due to workload commitments’ as his ‘planning applications have to take priority’. 
Publication of internal mails detailing a ‘significant matter’ comes a week after Dr Áine Ryall of UCC called the lack of enforcement of environmental laws ‘a national scandal’ at a recent EU Law Conference. 
The enforcement complaint concerned the use of a small pier protected for its scenic amenity and nature conservation value at Ballycrovane Harbour, Eyeries, on the Kenmare Bay. A large coastal salmon farm has recently begun slaughtering at sea and landing the fish at the small pier to be transported by road to Donegal for processing. Previously live fish were brought to the zoned area of Castletownbere’s port for slaughtering and transport.
‘Condition 15 of the company’s planning permission limits activities to twin-axel vehicles when multi-axel 18-ton tankers are lined up at the pier at harvest time’, according to Friends of the Irish Environment, who submitted an extensive Photographic Report on the activities of Marine Harvest, who produce 80% of Ireland’s farmed salmon, at the harbour. 
The admission is contained in emails released to the group after a ruling by the Commissioner for Environmental Information. 
Pointing out that the complaint raised a ‘significant matter’, the Senior Executive Planner wrote to his superior officer that he was ‘in this office four hours recently on a Saturday before going on leave and I invariable work through my lunch. There are currently 3 planners in an area where until recently there were 5 planners, a 40% reduction at a time when the economic climate has changed.’
Relaying the planner’s position, the Senior Executive Planner continued ‘Similarly, I can only do what is humanly possible’. He pointed out that he had an ‘odyssey of 36 files from Timoleague to Castletownbere’ as well as ‘pre-planning enquiries and long standing enforcement cases’.
A subsequent inspection of the site was undertaken but reported that ‘There was no evidence of significant activity in the area’ at the time of the planner’s visit. He recommended that no enforcement action should be taken as ‘there is no discernible breech of planning permission in the site’. The Planner added that ‘The enforcement of Condition 15 relating to double-axel vehicles would be difficult to enforce’. 
FIE’s complaint included extensive photographs taken of the harvesting operations particularly over a period of six weeks in the summer, with up to 3 tankers lined up at a time and work continuing over Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The documents released to the group show that a 3 ton weight restriction on the road sign was removed after a motion by Danny Collins, Independent Councillor for the area, to the Southern Committee of Cork County Council. 
‘The Beara Peninsula like other remote areas provide one of the last refuges for flora and fauna in Europe’, Tony Lowes of FIE pointed out. ‘The area depends for its very survival on nature-based tourism – like those who follow the Beara and Wild Atlantic Ways. That is why the County Plan requires that industrial activity like this should be confined to the designated serviced areas, and the few remaining unspoiled small piers and inlets restricted to small boats, leisure activities, and the common good.
Spokesman Tony Lowes 353 (0) 87 2176316 / 353 (0) 27 74771
Irish Language: David Healy 353 (0) 87 6178852
 Ruling by the Environmental Commissioner
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