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'A David and Goliath struggle': Locals crowdfund for court appeal against large Kildare quarry

The Aga Khan and Ruby Walsh are among those who have objected to the 32-hectare quarry.

Image: PA Images

KILDARE LOCALS ARE crowdfunding for a judicial review against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve a controversial 32-hectare sand and gravel quarry located near houses and a school, and that runs through the “heartland of Kildare’s thoroughbred breeding country”.

The approval from the planning authority goes against the advice of its inspectors report, which said that the development would “seriously injure the amenities of properties in the vicinity by reason of dust, traffic and general disturbance”.

“The proposed development, would therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” the inspector’s report concluded.

The proposal by Kilsaran Concrete is for a 32.2 hectare sand and gravel quarry at Racefield, Ballyshannon in Co Kildare. The plan proposes to extract sand and gravel at a rate of 250,000 tonnes a year, gathering an estimated three million tonnes over the 12-year period proposed.

The initial planning application submitted to Kildare County Council received over 200 objections, including from high-profile jockey Ruby Walsh, the Aga Khan and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association. Local TDs and councillors also objected.

It was rejected on a number of grounds, including traffic hazard/public safety on local road network, and loss of amenity to the area.

Kilsaran appealed this decision to An Bord Pleanála last year, and earlier this month the planning authority approved the large quarry.

The planning authority concluded that the “limited lifetime” of the quarry among other factors meant that it would “not seriously injure the visual or residential amenities of the area and would be acceptable in terms of traffic and safety convenience”.

The authority also said: “The Board considered that it had not been demonstrated that the proposed development would depreciate the value of properties in the area.”

An Bord Pleanála’s decision has several conditions attached that the company must adhere to in order to protect and safeguard residential and local amenities, and in the interest of traffic safety. But concerns have been raised previously that similar conditions are not enforced adequately.

‘Disappointment’

Local resident Sarah Burke said locals were “extremely disappointed” by the decision from An Bord Pleanála to ignore the serious concerns of residents and businesses in this area, but to also disregard the inspector’s concerns.

The inspector wrote that the proposed quarry was contrary to the policy requirements of the Kildare County Development Plan 2017-2023.

“What good is having a County Development Plan,” Burke said, “and regulations to protect people, the environment and the heritage of an area, when all of these protections can be sidelined in favor of big business with a stroke of a pen?”

She said that there was a fear that this would become “the tip of the iceberg”.

“How on earth can we claim as a nation to care about climate action when something like this is allowed to go ahead? When a rural, residential community is faced with a minimum of 72 HGV truck movements per day slowing, breaking and taking off right outside our children’s school yard, outside our homes?”

The inspector also said that the roads serving the proposed quarry were “substandard” in terms of condition, capacity, width and surface, and are “inadequate” to accommodate the type and volume of traffic movements generated by the proposed development.

This would “endanger public safety by reason of a traffic hazard”, it concluded.

The report also said that Kilsaran had not concluded that the River Barrow and River Nore would not be adversely affected by the proposed development.

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‘Continue to fight’

The Ballyshannon Action Group, which was formed in 2019 to oppose this quarry, said it would “continuing their fight” against the development.

“We have not gone away and are continuing to fight this inappropriate development on behalf of our community, but we need financial support to take our case further,” said a spokesperson for the Ballyshannon Action Group.

“We have a matter of weeks to apply for a Judicial Review of this appalling decision and we are under no illusions, this has always been a David versus Goliath struggle, we need all the help we can get.”

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