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Ruby Walsh and Aga Khan among objectors to plans for 32-hectare Kildare quarry

Those living in the area, local representatives and a TD are also among those objecting to the 32 hectare site at Racefield.

Ruby Walsh celebrates winning the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup on Kemboy, where he then announced his retirement.
Ruby Walsh celebrates winning the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup on Kemboy, where he then announced his retirement.
Image: Brian Lawless

HIGH-PROFILE JOCKEY Ruby Walsh is among the representatives of the equine industry that have objected to proposals for a quarry through the “heartland of Kildare’s thoroughbred breeding country”.

Others who have made representations for the equine industry include the Aga Khan, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association, and a number of stud farms.

Locals have also expressed concerns about the environmental and health impact of silica dust, the number of trucks that would be using a very narrow road, and the threat drilling could have on the local water supply. 

A local activist told TheJournal.ie they were concerned about the health implications for local residents, and its impact on the natural habits of a number of protected species.

The proposal by Kilsaran Concrete is for a 32.2 hectare sand and gravel quarry at Racefield, Ballyshannon in Co Kildare. The proposal is for 12 years with two years to complete restoration (planning number 19/1097).

It plans to extract sand and gravel at a rate of 250,000 tonnes a year, gathering an estimated 3 million tonnes over the 12-year period.

The submission was made on 6 November and a decision is due by the 27th of the month. 

Details of objections 

“We chose this area [to rest thoroughbred racehorses] because of its location to The Curragh, the soil and water quality of the area and because of the ‘quiet nature’ of the area. Horses are, after all, a flight (sic) animal and a quite relaxed environment helps them to both grow and relax during rest periods of their busy seasons,” Walsh wrote.

He said that the R418 which is the proposed route for the quarry traffic is “already a very busy road in South Kildare”, and the L8006, where a new entrance is proposed, is “operating at a maximum” as it’s used to get to the M7 motorway.

He said the road isn’t “suitable or capable” of coping with more traffic. He said that Ballyshannon National School must also be considered in the application, as an increase in traffic “heightens the risk of an already dangerous area”. 

Walsh also raised concerns about “the long-term health implications” of silica dust on both humans and animals. 

It’s understood that Walsh attended a submission clinic in October. 

Aga Khan Source: Kildare County Council

The Manager of the Aga Khan’s Irish Studs, Pat Downes, submitted an objection, stating that he had concerns about two stud farms “a short distance to the east and another two stud farms to the rest of the proposed site.

“This is an area of Kildare that is highly dependent on agriculture, bloodstock and rural employment,” he wrote.

“Co Kildare has long been identified as the Thoroughbred County and for good reason. Kildare accounts for a quarter of all broodmares and racehorses in training in Ireland. There are over 160 stud farms and training establishments in the country. 

A development, such as the one Kilsaran are looking for, in the very heart of such dense bloodstock activity cannot be consistent with giving Kildare the identity of The Thoroughbred County of Ireland. This application should be rejected.

The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, a national representative body, submitted an objection on behalf of a number of concerned members.

Water and air quality risks

The Ballyshannon Action Group was formed in June of this year following news that Kilsaran Concrete was to apply for planning permission for a quarry. 

Its main objections are to the health problems posed by silica dust, the threat of quarry activity on the local water supply, the effect it could have on the environment in the area, and the noise and traffic on “a small country road”.

“Many of the homes in the area have a water supply from private wells which will be significantly impacted by quarrying activity which they plan to carry out both over and below the water table,” spokesperson Sarah Burke said.

“It will also affect the Eaglehill Stream, a Special Area of Conservation. The stream flows into The Barrow so it has the potential to affect the health of wildlife in the whole area.”

In relation to ‘silica dust’, which is found in natural materials and can cause health problems for those in direct or constant contact with the dust, the Health Safety Authority says for those working in quarries: “Inhalation of fine dust containing crystalline silica can cause lung damage (silicosis), which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. Silicosis is irreversible and treatment options are limited.”

In its submission, the HSE said that it couldn’t find a reference in the quarry proposal’s “Environmental Impact Assessment Report” (EIAR) to a physical survey to identify local groundwater wells. 

It said that this must be done within the 150m of the site boundary. 

The HSE’s assessment also said that a baseline air quality monitoring needed to be done at a “minimum of four sites”, and that one of these sites must be Ballyshannon National School, which is “on the haul route”. 

“The EIAR states that there will be impacts on air quality from both the construction and the operational phase of the proposed development… The EIAR states that there are 13 properties within 100m of the Kilsaran landholding and 1 property within 100m of the proposed extraction area.”  

In order to ensure that the dust levels are kept within the 350mg/m sq, water spraying should be undertaken daily during periods of dry weather, and haul roads should be swept daily, among other measures.  

Local objections

Kildare mayor Suzanne Doyle, a number of local councillors, and local TD Martin Heydon are among the elected representatives who have submitted objections to the proposals.

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In his letter objection, Heydon questions the plan’s promise to limit activities, and also asked whether the Council would “monitor and enforce any conditions”.

He continued:

‘”Much of the local concern also emanates from the fact that Kilsaran own and continue to purchase significant land banks in the area close to this quarry. It is understandable that people would presume that the granting of this single large quarry may be only the start of a very significant quarrying activity throughout this area in the future.”

Kildare County Council said it would be inappropriate to make any comment on a live planning application. 

The Ballyshannon Action Group was formed in June of this year following news that Kilsaran Concrete was to apply for planning permission for a quarry.

It has been in touch with other groups in Rathangan, Co Kildare and Rathsallagh, Co Wicklow who had to fight similar cases in recent years.

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