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 Header Item Business of Dáil (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Waste Management

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 966 No. 5

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  4 o’clock

Topical Issue Debate

Waste Management

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, for coming to the House, hopefully to give me some answers.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Andrew Doyle): Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle I will do my best.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I have grave concerns about the proposal for a waste transfer station at the Poolboy area of Ballinasloe in respect of health and safety. Such a facility could see up to 100 heavy goods vehicles, HGVs, weighing up to 30 tonnes travelling through the town. This will bring increased dangers for cyclists, pedestrians and road users. I will go through some of the main points in the four minutes allotted to me.

  I will begin with the question of safety. Safety of the community of Ballinasloe is of the utmost concern. Why is the executive on Galway County Council considering a facility that will involve hundreds of ten, 15 and 30-tonne multi-axle vehicles driving past an acute hospital with a catchment area of 100,000, a secondary school, health centres, built-up urban residential areas and playgrounds? The only available access is through the town. There is also a debate on diesel fumes, which could be another major issue.

  The second concern is proximity, which is a major factor in health and environmental concerns.   Why is this facility located less than 2 km from Ballinasloe town centre, which has a population of exactly 6,654 people as per the census of 2016? Why would this particular area be considered an appropriate location? It is the largest urban area outside of Galway city centre. Then there is the question which is puzzling most people. Why were another 73 acres purchased for the development of a refuse transfer station? That certainly puzzles a lot of the public in that region.

  I will speak briefly about the planning permission. Planning permission for the facility has been approved within an area of Poolboy within the urban district council boundary to which a 1998 High Court order applies.  Why did the executive of Galway County Council contravene the 1998 High Court order? The campaigners proposed a policy of a waste industry-free zone within 10 km of highly populated urban area at a meeting with the Minister on 17 January. What progress has been made on this policy, which would bring health benefits to the Irish population? There are several issues in respect of this matter. At present, the people of Ballinasloe are pushing for more industry in the town and I acknowledge things are happening there. The people in the hospital and in the community certainly do not want this facility at Poolboy.

  In many respects, Ballinasloe could be thought of as a forgotten town. It has lost a huge amount of jobs but there is still a great sense of community. With more jobs, development and employment coming into the country, they are battling hard in that town and region to get more jobs. The town is on the motorway, 40 minutes from Galway city. Ballinasloe can certainly expand again after losing a couple of thousand jobs over several years.

  I know that Deputy Doyle is not the Minister who has full responsibility for this matter and I thank him for appearing in the House to give me some answers. Where do matters stand concerning this transfer station? What is going to be done about the huge public opposition in that region? Several months ago I was at a public meeting that was attended by more than 600 people. It is a live issue. I will give the Minister of State an opportunity to reply, to see what good news he might have for me.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, unfortunately is out of the country and is unavailable to respond in person. I have been given his speaking notes and will try to respond to any other issues the Deputy may raise in my later reply.

I understand that Galway County Council has granted planning permission for a waste transfer station that will receive waste and recyclables. Within a building at the facility, these materials will be unloaded and reloaded to larger vehicles for onward transfer to their waste facilities. Issues pertaining to the planning policy and the legislation do not fall within the Minister's remit and are matters for my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy.

My understanding of the current situation is that the company involved has made an application to Galway County Council for a waste authorisation to infill the site in question. Galway County Council is considering the submissions it has received on that application. I also understand that a further waste authorisation to regulate the waste activity at the transfer station itself would be required in advance of this facility beginning to operate. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment is precluded under section 63 of the Waste Management Act 1996 from exercising any power or control over specific cases of a local authority's performance of its statutory functions under the Act. Furthermore, waste management planning, including infrastructure planning, is the responsibility of the local authorities under Part II of the Waste Management Act 1996.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, I understand that the Minister met members of the Poolboy community in January 2018 to discuss and tease out a number of issues around this matter. I fully appreciate that the community has concerns. However, the Minister's role in waste management is to provide a comprehensive legislative and policy framework through which the relevant regulatory bodies, such as local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency, operate.

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