Along with over four-hundred concerned others, I spent last Thursday evening in the ballroom of the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen. We had congregated there to discuss how the building and subsequent operation of a thermo-plastics production factory to be located a little more than a kilometre from the town centre, might be prevented.
None of us ought to have been there. Had Ireland’s ultimate planning authority upheld objections to permission to build being granted, no meeting would have been necessary. That the foray continues is thanks entirely to the authority having voted two to one, against their own inspector’s advice, in favour of permission being granted. That permission to build the proposed Brobdingnagian pile was granted is beyond belief. Quite apart from any other objections, of which there are many, to construct a huge, featureless, industrial complex in a bucolic landscape presently dressed with hedged pastures crossed by streams gently flowing into the Ilen river, would be consummately inappropriate; an environmental act of war.
Throughout the year, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the proposed thermo-plastics factory will, if it is ever built, process raw material into plastic pellets, know as ‘Nurdles’. Raw material will be shipped into Ringaskiddy, ninety kilometres from Skibbereen, where it will be transferred to heavy lorries, to be trundled for along a largely two-lane country road passing through the centre of Innishannon, by-passing Clonakilty town centre along an itinerary of twisting residential back streets which serve the town centre as an inadequate by-pass to ultimately crawl through the busy retail centre of Skibbereen. Even on a fine day, it is not an easy drive in a family car on a fine day. Finished ‘Nurdles’, will be trundled over the same route back to Ringaskiddy. To imagine a lorry coming from Ringaskiddy loaded with raw material meeting another loaded with finished hurdles heading back to Ringaskiddy in say North Street Skibbereen, would be excellent material for a farce writer but, if the scheme eventually goes ahead, such scenes will surely be regular occurrences.
I have, as clearly as I am able, presented sound reasons why I, among many others, have failed to understand how this scheme could have advanced to a position whereby its progress can only be halted through the auspices of a fabulously expensive and time-consuming judicial review.
That the proposed factory will have four tall chimneys informs of emissions. The nature of these emissions is unknown, the planning authorities involved in granting permission for the factory to be built had not, incredibly, believed it fit or necessary to ask; no more did they question the composition of the effluent the applicant intends to dump into the Ilen.
It seems that little or no information concerning the processes to be effected within the proposed plant, their potential emissions and effluents, has been made available by the applicant. Critics of the scheme, however, have sought opinions gleaned from independent scholarship; objective studies of drawings submitted to the planning authorities and intelligence of similar nurdle production plants operating elsewhere in the world have provided a good deal of relevant information; information which gives cause for pessimism.
Emissions from the process are toxic. As they exit the factory chimneys, the prevailing west wind will take them directly over Skibbereen; the town centre, its residential areas and its new hilltop secondary school which, incidentally, is just about the same height above sea level as the chimney tops of the factory. Liquid effluent from the plant will flow continually into the Ilen. It too will be toxic; a threat to marine and avian life, and to the livelihoods of those engaged in the local fishing industry. Toxic particulates flowing from the chimneys will fall on the rich grass of the dairy and beef farms around the factory; a threat to the livelihoods of local farmers.
At the end of November a nurdle manufacturing factory located close to the A6 autoroute at Beaune, France, owned by the same concern wanting to build at Skibbereen, caught fire. Despite the best efforts of fifty fire-fighters, trained to deal with plastic factory fires and the use of specialist equipment, the fire raged for ten hours. Skibbereen is far from any motorways and with the greatest respect to our firefighters I doubt they have either access to, or have been trained to use, equipment up to fighting a plastics fire for ten minutes; why would they need such resources?
There is much else about which I could write, the disruption to local life the construction will cause, the puzzling over what is really behind the doubtful course this application appears to have taken, but no, I believe I have provided sufficient food for thought concerning this lunatic project. I sincerely hope it will never come to pass!
For further, more detailed, and reliable reference to this appalling story visit: https://saveourskibbereen.ie/