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Request for a ban on balloon releases: My motion to the Southern Committee of Cork County Council, 18-09-2017

“That in view of the risk balloons waste can pose to wild animals, birds and the marine environment and its contribution to litter generally, Cork County Council would ban balloon releases within its jurisdiction.” 

Balloon releases are beautiful.  They are emotional, symbolic and are generally organised for very worthy charitable causes and special commemorative events.

But the reality is that the few minutes that magnificent visual impact is over, the balloons don’t disappear.  Between 80 – 95% of released balloons rise to an altitude of 5 miles where the pressure and temperature is such that they burst into small fragments.  The remaining 5 – 15% don’t make it that high and can float many miles before descending back to the land or sea, semi-inflated.

Balloons can be made of either mylar or latex.  Mylar is a plastic and simply doesn’t biodegrade.  Latex in the natural state is biodegradable but balloons on land can take 6 months to biodegrade and in salt water, 12 months.  During this time, they are a particularly dangerous litter.

On land, balloon fragments can harm wild and domestic animals and livestock.  In the marine environment, sea turtles, birds and other surface-feeding animals can mistake floating balloons for jellyfish and may attempt to eat them.  Balloons can directly cause a slow and miserable death by blocking the digestive tract, eventually leading to starvation.  This has been witnessed and documented by organisations all over the world including the UK DEFRA  and latex balloons have been found in the digestive systems of many species in Irish waters, including some of which are protected by law.  In sea turtles, balloons have in fact been found to reside without digestion or excretion for up to 4 months.

Balloons can cause death indirectly because more than 95% of phytoplankton, the essential building blocks of marine ecosystems, are killed by latex rubber within 4 days.  Moreover, the word “biodegradable” does not identify that in degrading, latex goes through a sticky phase which increases the choking risk if it is ingested.

Birds legs and necks have become wrapped in the strings attached to balloons.  When flippers and fins of sea turtles, seals and dolphins become similarly entrapped, it can cause infection, amputation and death by drowning.

All that aside, a staggering 8% of the world’s helium supply is used for filling party balloons.  Helium is a non-renewable resource which we desperately need for other products we treasure such as MRI scanners, fibre optics and LCD screens.

The UK Marine Conservation Society has found a frightening average of 3 balloons per km of coast surveyed.  Surveys of beach litter in the UK have found that the number of balloons and balloon fragments has tripled in the past 10 years, doubling between 2015 and 2016 alone.

Balloon releases have been banned in several states in the US including California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia.  At least 7 other US cities have similar laws in place.  They have been banned in places in Australia.  34 local authorities in England, 10 in Scotland, 14 in Wales and 4 in Northern Ireland have forbidden balloon releases on public ground.

Environmental organisations all over the world have been asking for a ban on balloon releases for many years.

It is tragic that generally because of a lack of awareness, something that is beautiful, poignant and celebratory should cause so much downstream destruction, suffering and death.  There are other equally wonderful ways in which events can be marked, ways which do not cause downstream environmental harm.

I welcome the sensitive and considered response from the executive.”

Deliberations on the proposed Mackinnon boundary review for Cork City and County

I wrote the piece at the link below  in mid-June for the Carrigdhoun newspaper.  At the time, the Mackinnon-led “expert” committee had made their recommendation for a 35km-wide City jurisdiction, stretching from Ballincollig to Carrigtwohill, to include Blarney but to exclude Passage West.  The debate about this issue rumbles on and Mackinnon’s recommendations make no more sense to me now than they did two months ago.

The County Council has since offered areas closest to Cork City to the City Council.  These areas include the Strategic Land Reserve identified by the County for potential residential development.  The extent of the land offered is such that it would increase the City’s area by 85%, allow an immediate population increase of 31.2%, a potential population increase of up to 283,600 and would offer a residential density on a par with that in Dublin City .  Any feedback I have had from constituents on the County’s most recent offer has been positive; they say it makes far more sense to them than the City boundary proposed by Mackinnon.  (Apart from one constituent living in an area close to the City who very much wants no boundary change at all.)

Under Mackinnon’s recommendations, the Cork Harbour area would be split between City and County.  It has recently been suggested that I should be pushing for the entire of Cork Harbour to be included in the expanded City boundary.  I have in fact already written about this (in the article below), but believe that this oneness would best be achieved in the context of a merger of City and County:

19-06-2017 – boundary extension

My submission to the M28 planning application

My submission to the M28 planning appplication is at the link below.  This is a TII/Cork County Council project.  We need vastly improved connectivity out of Ringaskiddy and if there is to be a motorway, that’s fine too.  But at least let it follow a route that will actually keep traffic free-flowing and won’t destroy people’s lives:

Submission to ABP, 18-08-2017

Proposed apartment development at Pembroke Wood, Passage West

(Please note: the Design Statement submitted with the planning application has been added below today, 27-07-2017.)

A planning application has been made on behalf of Rowan Hill Developments to build 24 apartments (comprising 6 No. 1 bedroom units, 18 No. 2 bedroom units) over 3 storeys, 30 car parking spaces and all associated development works including access, landscaping, amenity areas, bicycle storage, services and refuse storage.

Although it was lodged with the County Council’s planning office on 7th July, the planning application is not available to view on the Planning Viewer app yet.  It is, however, available to view in the planning office of County Hall and I have scanned most of the drawings from it and put them here:
Planning application
Design statement

If you have concerns, it is important to lodge a submission with Cork County Council before 10th August.

  • Address your letter to the Planning Department, Cork County Council, County Hall, Cork.
  • Reference the planning application number: 17/5739 – Pembroke Wood, Passage West
  • Include your name and address
  • Include the submission fee of €20.

As of now, the planning application has not yet been validated by the County Council.  If the application is found not to be complete, it will be sent back to the applicant who will then need to relodge it.  At this stage, it will be assigned a new reference number.  Should this happen, I will let you know.  But in the meantime, if you have concerns it is important to convey them to the County Council.

This planning application was received by Cork County Council on 7th July.  By law, this date must be within two weeks of erection of the site notice.  If anyone has (preferably photographic) confirmation that the site notice was or was not in place since 24th June, please do let me know.

As a resident myself, I have will be submitting my deep concern that this proposal constitutes overdevelopment in this location.  If you have any queries, please get in touch.

My submission to the Further Information request on the proposed Ringaskiddy incinerator

An Bord Pleanála invited Indaver Ireland to submit Further Information on their planning application for a proposed incinerator in Ringaskiddy.

Specifically, the Board asked Indaver to address:

  1. “Possible discrepancies” in the dioxin modelling data
  2. The Department of Defence’s submission which stated that the incinerator would impact on helicopter navigation safety at the Haulbowline Island Naval Base.

Indaver submitted a number of reports in response to this Further Information: one from their air modelling expert, another from their dioxin modelling expert, one from an academic which peer-reviewed the work of the dioxin modelling expert, one from their aviation consultant, another from a new aviation consultant and a report on a site visit to a UK Naval Base with helicopter capability immediately adjacent to an operational incinerator.

Because this information was deemed to be significant, the Board threw it open to the public for their comments.  Today was the last day by which those comments would be received.

There have been some wonderfully competent submissions made by CHASE and others, the import of at least some of which will undoubtedly leak out over the next few weeks.  Below is a link to my own.  It poses deeply concerning questions about the air dispersion modelling carried out by Indaver to which I would dearly love – but will probably never get – answers.

Submission to ABP, 21-07-2017