Category Archives: Local area

Notes from a suspension of standing orders at a meeting of full Council, 11-01-2021

Suspension of Standing Orders – Ringaskiddy Fire.  Requested by Cllr Seamus McGrath and Cllr Marcia D’Alton

Cllr Seamus McGrath:  
Thanks the Mayor for facilitating the discussion.  This was a very significant fire.  Pays tribute to the fire service.  Information deficit.  Needs to be an effective communications systems set up.  Acknowledges that there was a meeting last night between the Port, R&H Hall and the residents and the initial word back from residents is that they felt it was a satisfactory meeting.  But during the early hours of the fire there was a deficit of information.  Residents communicated among themselves through social media.

The wider issue is in relation to the response when something like this happens.  Ringaskiddy is a major industrial area.  The weekend’s fire concentrates minds.  Ringaskiddy is a cul de sac that is surrounded by water.  The Port of Cork implemented its own emergency plan on Saturday morning.  But as a community Ringaskiddy would like to see the Council look at a localised incident plan for Ringaskiddy.  We have a Major Emergency Plan for the county.  There is a place though for a local plan for Ringaskiddy.  A multi-agency approach would be adopted here.  

Have some specific questions.  The wind thankfully wasn’t in the direction of the main settlement.  Air quality was raised though.  Do we have an environmental response in terms of air quality?  I understand that it was decided it was safe for residents to go outdoors.  Residents want to know if that decision was based on testing.  Knows there was a meeting before that decision was taken.

I want the fire service to have a role going forward.  There have been three fires since September in this location.  That is a matter for the company.  It calls into question some of their fire prevention measures.  Would like to see our fire service having a role in carrying out a risk assessment in relation to his specific site.  The weekend has to be a wake-up call.

Thankfully there were no injuries.

Residents are looking with a positive frame of mind to the Council to engage on this.  

Cllr Marcia D’Alton:
Echoes Cllr McGrath’s thanks for facilitating this discussion on what was the second largest fire in Cork Harbour in my lifetime.  Repercussions for the whole harbour.  Echoes thanks also for the significance of the response from the fire service and notes that units from 4 or 5 locations were involved.  Thanks also for the email communications over the past couple of days.

This fire took place at the head of the Ringaskiddy peninsula.  Some of the local footage shot by drivers from Haulbowline past the fire indicated how, if it were bigger, the N28 would have been cut off.  Pfizer’s OSP4 is right next door.  That’s a Seveso site.  So it was very fortunate that the fire was contained.  It could have been so much worse.  An emergency plan for Ringaskiddy is essential, not just for the community but also for the many workers on the peninsula.  It is also necessary to consider an emergency plan for Cobh.  Any accident at Ringaskiddy will have a significant impact on Cobh and Cobh is also an island with one road in and one road out. 

Cork Harbour is a bowl and the Ringaskiddy peninsula is at its very centre. Any accident that happens in Ringaskiddy affects not only the Ringaskiddy community but communities all around the harbour.

Have also some specific questions.  Requesting an inventory of materials that may have burned in the fire.  We know it was mostly animal feed but the warehouse burned and other materials within the warehouse would have burned too.  What kind of animal feed was it?  Different grains produce different levels of particulates.  Was the firewater contained or did it run into the sea?  Was it analysed?  That question of whether the decision to advise residents it was safe to go back outdoors was based on air monitoring has also been asked of me.  

Cllr Sinead Sheppard:
Supports what the two cllrs have said and glad that it is being spoken about here today.  The reality is that when something like this happens, it puts everyone’s health at risk.  Glad Cllr D’Alton brought up that Cobh is an island.  There have been a lot of photos taken and sent to the local councillors.  Wants to support all that we said.  What more proof do planners need than a live model of what happens when something goes wrong?  Is it even possible to think of putting an incinerator in here?  This is just a no go area.  Wants to commend us for doing a suspension of standing orders today.  Our harbour is such a beautiful amenity.  It is very distressing to see this and puts everyone’s health at risk.  

Cllr Ben Dalton O’Sullivan:
Agrees with what has been said.  Thanks the emergency services and the communications office.  Fully supports the proposal for a Lower Harbour/Ringaskiddy incident emergency plan.  We should give serious consideration to this.  We’d all hope we’d never have to use it.  It is a very sensible call.  Where there is a lack of information there is fear.  I would hope that we could write to the Port of cork to see if communications could be improved.  CThe ouncil needs to take a lead in an emergency plan.

Mayor Linehan-Foley:
When I saw it first it would have been on social media.  Thanks the emergency services.  Echoes what every councillor says and especially what Cllr D’Alton said.  It’s at this stage a have-to situation.  Thanks us councillors for keeping everyone updated over the weekend.

Chief Executive:
Sent out a short report this morning.  This set out the framework in which we operate.  Commends our own fire and emergency services.  There was active communication all day Saturday and all day Sunday.  We will continue to remain on site for as long as it takes.  There may be minor plumes of smoke emerging for a short period of time. The company will move the material from site.

Appreciates where members are coming from.  Cork County Council as an organisation leads the multiagency response to a major emergency.  We have a suite of plans in place.  We have our own multiagency plan which is published on line.  It contains emergency plans for all the Seveso sites.  Assures cllrs and the public that when it comes to a major emergency operating in Cork County, the emergency planning system and the emergency response system, there are processes in place that if required we can operate beyond.  Where any organisation in the county is facing something that is not within their capability to manage, we seek a multiagency response.  Within those plans we have community centres, hotels, transport providers on call in the event of any situation arising.  

What arose on Saturday morning was an event of scale that we responded to.  It is not beyond our capability and we would have faced similar over last number of years.  The Port of Cork decided to active their own emergency plan.  It is clear that they have a set of actions they must take including communications.  It is welcome that the Port of Cork and the company have met with residents.  

There is a formal post-incident review process and this will examine everything that happened on site including communications and engagement.  That learning will help us to further develop our thinking around the more granular detail around a local incident plan.  We have to work in a framework.  If the wind was blowing in a different way, we may well have needed to evacuate residents.  Our plan provides for that.  Cork County Council would have stood in in that case and activated it ourselves.  Writing that down is difficult but the framework does provide for it.  We would be happy to engage with local residents and the Port and enhance this.  Perhaps a text alert system would work, something like the MapAlerter system for example.  We’re happy to consider what we could do in this regard so that every agency down there might adopt this system if an issue arises.

On air quality – we rely heavily on the information from the port company (in this instance) and the company that operates the facility (in this case R&H Hall).  We were satisfied that there was nothing burning there that would be of an enhanced public health risk for residents.  So we felt there was no need to go beyond the Port’s recommendation to stay indoors.  

In relation to onsite conditions and risk assessment, that is a matter for the company to review and they will be doing that as we speak. There will be a normal set of circumstances kick in.  our Chief Fire Officer will in conjunction with those on the ground be preparing their own review.  

No event like this is walked away from without learning which brings enhancement in risk assessment, enhancement in response, etc.

In relation to the other issues raised on the nature of what burned, etc., this will come up as part of the review.  We are satisfied there is nothing of significant concern there.  It will be part of R&H Hall’s review as it will be ours.

There is an onsite stormwater system but there is no doubt that it was probably not able to hold all the fire water.  The Director of Services is arranging that samples are taken as we speak.  Once we are satisfied we can do this in a safe manner, we will do so.  We will revert on that.

The positive thing is that the fire was exceptionally well dealt with.  Secondly there were no deaths or injuries.  Thirdly there is a very formal review process.  Any learning from this will be considered in terms of the more granular detail of a local response in the Ringaskiddy area.  We may involve the Municipal District.

Cllr Cathal Rasmussen:
I work in a pharma company right beside where the activity took place.  I look out on R&H Hall.  I am aware of the shortcomings there for a long period of time.  Delighted to hear that Council will engage strongly with the Port and R&H Hall.  Would be concerned that if the buildings went back, this will happen again.  This was an accident waiting to happen.  Will they have to go for planning permission if they want to replace the buildings?  I would have huge concerns about that the buildings would go back up and we would have no say in it.  As someone who has a lot of experience of dealing with the Port, I would be very concerned that everything that has to be put in place is put in place and that they are held accountable.  We were lucky this time, we may not be so lucky the next time.

Cllr James Kennedy:
What hasn’t been mentioned was the cost of this fire to Cork County Council.  Will we be able to recoup the cost of this to our fire services?  The amount that was spent on putting out the fire for a private, very profitable company?  Will they pay it all back?  Or will it be the same as derelict buildings that the banks will get all the costs back and we’ll have to do the safety work?  Will we be compensated fully for that and if not, why not?  

Cllr McGrath: (supplementary) Wants to thank the CE.  Understands the post incident report.  Understands that will take time.  What we will give back to the community is important.  Asks that it is made public as appropriate.  Welcomes comments in terms of communication.  There was no text system in place on Saturday morning.  It would be welcome.  Says the updates over the weekend were very welcome.  Reminded about the air quality testing question.  

Cllr D’Alton (supplementary): 
Want to emphasis how critical it is that we recognise the impact of an accident at Ringaskiddy on all communities of Cork Harbour. If one looks down at the harbour from above, Ringaskiddy is at the very epicentre of the harbour bowl. Pollution from an accident at Ringaskiddy can affect communities all over Cork Harbour right up to the City. Cork City Council has a network of air monitors in place. We need a similar network around the harbour. We are always seen to support industry. It has been said in the past by the Ringaskiddy community that when Ringaskiddy was being developed for industry, the people should have been moved out. But they weren’t and they are living with industry all around them. We have to be as supportive to the communities of the harbour, to its amenity and to its environment as we are to industry. This is something that has been rumbling for a very long time.

Chief Executive:
It is premature to speculate on what might happen with the site.  The full costs of our response is covered by charges and rates.  Rates go towards supporting the fire service.  The whole of one charge isn’t billed.  Information flows go through our own Major Emergency Management Officer and our Chief Fire Officers, they are acutely aware of the need to engage.

There are probably two Municipal Districts involved. There are two air monitoring locations which the EPA have in Cobh.  The EPA has  four monitors inside in the city.  The EPA monitor in Cobh showed an increase during the course of that event and it reduced afterwards.  Will raise the question of a monitoring network with our environment section.  The important thing is that we had full assistance on the ground from R&H Hall and the Port of Cork.  Can assure members of that.  

Cllr D’Alton: 
There are three Municipal Districts involved!  We would all welcome being kept up to date through the MD structure.

Photo taken by Rodney Daunt on 09-11-2021. Shows the smoke plume spreading out like a table cloth and heading towards him in the Myrtleville/Ringabella direction.

Cork City Council plans to upgrade the Blackrock – Passage West greenway

Cork City Council is in the process of upgrading the greenway from Páirc Uí Chaoimh all the way to the City boundary at the Forge, just west of the Roberts Bridge car park. That’s obviously massively relevant to us here in Passage West/Monkstown!

They’re doing this in two Phases. Phase 1 is from Páirc Uí Chaoimh to the N40 (excluding the footbridge). It includes widening of the existing surfaced area from 3m to 5m, the installation of new public lighting and CCTV, highlighting the heritage of the railway (especially at Blackrock Station) and creating a biodiversity corridor along the railway line. Construction of Phase 1 has started and if you would like to see the previously approved Part 8 plans, they are at: https://consult.corkcity.ie/en/consultation/improvement-works-passage-railway-greenway-improvement-scheme.

Phase 2 is from the footbridge over the N40 to #PassageWest, although most of the focus will be from this side of the N40 to Hop Island. The project will be looking at widening the paved surface, providing improved parking areas (especially at Harty’s Quay) and installing lighting. Surveying is starting this week. This will inform the preliminary consultation phase, likely to be in mid-December. The City Council is especially anxious to look at possible alternative routes/improvements to the current shared on-road path from the Rochestown railway station to Hop Island. If you are a greenway user and/or if you would like to to make contact about your experiences and any improvements you might like to see, please share your thoughts at this preliminary phase. It will help to inform the route options analysis as it progresses. You can email the City Council to adrian_quinn@corkcity.ie. You can also obviously make contact with me if that’s easier!

My submission to the Novartis planning application

Novartis #Ringaskiddy operates two incinerators on site. One is a liquid vapour incinerator and the other is a solid waste incinerator. Both were installed to dispose of manufacturing waste generated on site. Heat recovered from the incinerators is used in the manufacturing process. But Novartis has reduced processing over the past couple of years and plans to reduce it yet further. As a result, there isn’t enough on-site waste being generated to power the incinerators and they have had to burn fossil fuels to generate the necessary heat to continue processing.

Novartis has recently lodged a planning application with Cork County Council seeking permission to accept liquid and solid hazardous wastes from other manufacturing sites around the country to burn in their on-site incinerators. The application says that this would supplement the waste lost by the reduced manufacturing, would allow a move away from the burning of virgin fossil fuel and would reduce hazardous waste currently exported from Ireland for treatment/disposal. It says the proposed wastes would be of a type similar to what is (or was) already on site and would therefore be suitable for burning in their incinerators. It also says that this move would help them sustain the Ringaskiddy operation.

I put considerable work into preparing a submission to this planning application. At face value, the logic of optimising existing under-used infrastructure makes perfect sense. However having been part of the 20-year campaign to keep merchant incineration out of Cork Harbour, I felt it was necessary that there would be crystal clear understanding of the proposed Novartis operation. You can read my submission at this link:

community enhancement funding 2020

Funding was approved by Cork County Council’s South Cork Local Community Development Committee today for a whole range of community groups under the Community Enhancement Programme. The scheme had 132 applications, was well oversubscribed and thanks to the LCDC for making a real effort to make sure as many groups as possible got what they were requesting. Some funding applications were transferred to the Covid Emergency Fund to which they were more suited. Two applications were transferred to the Creative Ireland grant scheme and were funded that way.

The full list of awarded grants under the Community Enhancement Programme is at this link:

Projects receiving funding under the Covid Emergency Fund and Creative Ireland grant schemes are here:

Garryduff Woods forest road licence application and felling licence

A licence for the clearfell of 6.54 hectares of trees in Garryduff Woods was granted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to Coillte in October 2018. The area that Coillte intends to cut is at the southern end of the forest. 6% of the trees in this area are broadleaf oak and beech, estimated as having been planted in 1863. A very small area is Douglas Fir and Juniper Larch. The remaining almost 60% is Sitka Spruce planted in 1970. The felling licence is at this link:

I’m guessing not many of us knew that a felling licence had been granted to Coillte for Garryduff Woods. When a felling licence application is received by DAFM, they advertise it on their website and there is a period of time during which the public can make comment. However there was no requirement for Coillte to put up a site notice.

What has alerted us to the possible loss of the Garryduff Woods that we know and love is that Coillte has now applied for a Forest Road Licence application to remove trees from the area it proposes to clearfell. They must stick up a site notice for this. The proposed road would run for 360 metres alongside the lower river. Building it would involve clearfelling a width of at least 15 metres. The Forest Road Licence application is here:

Coillte is obliged to replant the area they clearfell. The felling licence application shows that their replanting intentions are for 100% Sitka Spruce for future harvesting.

This is devastating for all of us who love Garryduff Woods, who rely on it for recreation, for space, for a bit of wildness in an urban environment. It means the loss of habitat for the red squirrel, badger and so many other avian, mammal and insect species.

We are in a period of public consultation on the Forest Road Licence application. You can make a submissions free of charge in relation until 26th June 2020. Your submission can be sent by post to:
Approvals Section, Forestry Division, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co. Wexford
or by email to:
forestryappenq@agriculture.gov.ie.

You can express your views in your submission and they will be taken into account by a Forestry Inspector when s/he is considering the application. Make sure you provide your name and address and quote the reference number: CN86326.

This is my daughter during lockdown in the area of the forest which Coillte wants to decimate to build the forest road. Heartbreaking.

My motions to a meeting of the carrigaline municipal district, 15-06-2020

1. That Ballygarvan village would be included as one of the recommended locations for installation of vehicle-activated speed signage. Ballygarvan has been identified by the Gardai as being a location that would benefit from such digital speed signage.

The response from the Area Engineer was that although she has planned to undertake speed surveys in a number of towns and villages around the Municipal District and to install vehicle-activated speed signage on the advice of the findings, if the Gardaí have already made a recommendation for such signage in a location, she would consider fast-tracking its installation in that location. I am to send on the correspondence from the Gardaí.  

2. That updates would be provided on the following ongoing key projects in our Municipal District:
a. Carrigaline Transportation and Public Realm Enhancement Plan
b. Glenbrook – Carrigaline/Ringaskiddy Greenway 
c. Ringaskiddy Public Realm Enhancement Plan
d. Ringaskiddy Village Enhancement Funding for Gobby Beach

The written response from the Municipal District Officer was as follows:

a. The procurement process for the TPREP is nearing a conclusion and the appointment of a Consultant is imminent. Consultation with Members and other stakeholders will be an important element of the plan preparation and we will be in a position to advise of associated timelines once the Consultant has been appointed. The Public Realm team were engaged during the preparation of the consultancy brief – and will be important stakeholders in the process – so both projects are aligned.

b. Traffic and Transportation Section is hoping to issue consultancy brief in Quarter 3 of 2020.

c and d. Carrigaline MD office is working with the Architects Department to progress a design to inform a phased approach to the overall public realm design for Ringaskiddy. COVID-19 has had an impact on the progress of these plans. Plans will be shared with the community association and with members once progressed in advance of a Part 8 Planning Application. Gobby Beach will form part of these plans and the balance of funding previously allocated under the Village Enhancement Fund remains available.

3. That Cork County Council would cut the grass verges on the L6518 from Moog to Ringaskiddy National School and on the R613 from Barnahely Cemetery to the junction with the N28.

The Area Engineer said that she would follow up on why the cutting did not take place on the cemetery to N28 section of the R613. Due to budgetary constraints, she said it was not the Area Office’s intention to cut road verges insofar as possible and so it was unlikely that the L6518 would be done.

Submissions to a proposed IDA pumping station/outfall in loughbeg, ringaskiddy

The IDA has lodged a planning application to develop a pumping station at Loughbeg. It would pump wastewater and surface water. The planning application also seeks approval for a storage tank for wastewater, a building to house controls, an ESB substation and mobile lifting gantry. It also seeks approval to provide a chemical dosing unit, a standby generator, an air handling unit placed behind an acoustic barrier and to install two new concrete manholes on an existing pipeline. It seeks approval to lay new pipelines from these pumping stations through fields and along roads from Loughbeg to the Shanbally wastewater treatment plant for a distance of some 3 km. The pumping stations will serve 75 ha of industrially zoned land, as yet undeveloped. Wastewater of unknown composition from an unknown process is to discharge to the underground storage tank from industrial development of as yet unknown characteristics. All going well, it is to be pumped to a wastewater treatment plant some 3 km away, although the wastewater treatment plant does as yet not have the capacity to accept industrial loading. All not going according to plan, the wastewater will be pumped into Loughbeg. Stormwater with as yet unknown characteristics from car parks and process areas of the as yet unknown industries will flow to the stormwater pumping station in as yet unknown quantities to be pumped into Loughbeg. Lougbeg is an integral part of the Cork Harbour SPA which supports wintering waterfowl in numbers of national and international importance.

I supported the appeal to An Bord Pleanála by lodging an observation. You can read that here:

The Board agreed there was a possibility that the proposed development would do harm so it asked the IDA to produce an NIS (Natura Impact Statement). The NIS produced by the IDA’s consultants is available here:

My commentary on the above NIS is here:

Planning Application for Marino Point

Anything that happens at Marino Point affects Passage West. The Marino Point jetty is merely 500 metres directly across the water from Passage West town centre. The site has lain derelict since IFI ceased operating in 2002. Some clearance has taken place under the guidance of the EPA but many of the old structures still remain. The Port of Cork has purchased the site in partnership with Lanber Holdings to form the new Belvelly Marino Development Company. They have applied to Cork County Council for planning permission to clear these old structures, to install a new surface and foul drainage system, to infill the lagoon, construct flood defences and essentially prepare serviced sites for industrial development. Gouldings fertilisers is expected to move their operations on Centre Park Road to Marino Point and a planning application for this is due in early 2020.

It’s good to see life at Marino Point but I’m also conscious that anything taking place there will likely have an impact on Passage West. Marino Point is in the Cobh Municipal District and there is a risk that because water rather than land separates us, the vulnerability of Passage West may be underplayed or overlooked during the planning process. So I made a submission to the Port of Cork/Belvelly Marino Development Company’s planning application. A local residents group in Passage West also made a submission and I have been given permission to make it generally available. You will find links to both here …