Thursday, February 20, 2020

PLANS for a new quarry on 8.5 hectares near Abbeyleix have brought objections from environmentalists and residents.

Ten objections to the planning application have been lodged with Laois County Council. The objectors include the Abbeyleix Bog Project (ABP), whose directors    claim the proposed quarry could threaten the future of the award-winning wetlands and wildlife haven nearby.

The planning application from Booth Precast Products Ltd, which has an existing 20-hectare quarry in Ballymullen, is for the development of an adjacent sand and gravel quarry in the townlands of Ballymullen and Knocknamoe.

The application seeks permission for the removal of trees, vegetation and overburden at the site and extraction of underlying sand and gravel with associated ancillary works. The application has a 20-year lifespan and includes provision for landscaping and restoration of the site when the quarry closes after two decades. The application is accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR).

The planning application was received by Laois County Council on 8 January and nine submissions objecting to the plan were lodged by last week’s closing date of Tuesday 11 February. A decision from the county council’s planning department is due by Tuesday 3 March.

The ABP objection was lodged together with a contributory submission from Paul Johnston, adjunct professor of environmental engineering at Trinity College Dublin, whose submission is also on behalf of nearby landowner Peter O’Neill. In his submission, Professor Johnston describes Abbeyleix Bog as “a flagship example of community-led conservation” and adds: “It has been strongly supported by the local authority, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other NGOs, to the extent that it warranted a visit from the President of Ireland in 2017.”

The detailed ABP submissions focus on a variety of concerns, particularly on the possible effects of the quarry on groundwater flow, which creates unique ecological habitats within the bog. Other issues include the possible environmental and ecological impact of dust and road run-off.

The ABP submission stresses that the bog is recognised as a strategic natural asset for the eastern-midlands region, as well as a potential National Heritage Area which includes land directly across from the proposed quarry.

While awaiting a decision on the planning application, the Abbeyleix Bog Project has called for a full hydrological study to be carried out over a considerable time period to assess fully how the proposed quarry links to the surrounding sensitive habitats.

Now one of the largest family-owned concrete companies in Ireland, Booth Concrete Ltd opened the existing quarry in Ballymullen in 1993, supplying concrete products for the construction industry throughout Ireland. Three years later, it established Booth Precast Ltd, which manufactures a wide range of concrete products.

Other objectors to the development include An Taisce and residents of the nearby Grallow Wood estate in Abbeyleix.

When contacted for comment, John Booth of Booth Pre-Cast Concrete said the proposed quarry would greatly reduce heavy vehicle traffic in Abbeyleix and particularly the Ballymullen Road, as the company currently has to transport sand and gravel from other counties. The site is very close to the existing quarry and would greatly reduce haulage costs.

He added that the company would hold a meeting with local residents and interest groups to outline and explain the plans in more detail, if the application gets a green light.

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By Carmel Hayes
Contact Newsdesk: +353 57 86 70216

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