Buildings

DRINKING water being supplied to a new European food safety headquarters in
Ireland is polluted with animal waste, according to tests.

FROM Voice Volume 7 Number 7

15 February 2001


Animal waste found in water supplies at new food safety site

By John Shelley

DRINKING water being supplied to a new European food safety headquarters in

Ireland is polluted with animal waste, according to tests.


Environment watchdogs say the water supply to the European Commission's

Food and Veterinary Agency, currently under construction, is in breach of

EU rules and have taken the Irish government to court in an attempt to

prove it.


The 160 officials who work for the agency are due to move from Dublin to

their new base in Kiltale early next year. The headquarters will include a

cr?®che for the children of staff.


Commission tests indicate that the water supplied to the site, where an

Irish government office is already based, falls foul of faecal coliform

bacteria standards laid down in a 1980 Union law.


"That means you can get sick if you drink the water," said one official.


The Kiltale issue is just part of a complex legal battle the Commission is

waging over the way drinking water is supplied to rural regions.


According to Commission officials, around 150,000 Irish people currently

get their drinking water from polluted sources. The government argues the

water is provided by private organisations, known as group water schemes,

and so is exempt from Union law. A legal ruling on the matter is pending

from the European Court of Justice.


Late last year the Commission discovered that one of these projects, the

Kiltale Group Water Scheme, would supply the new Food and Veterinary

office.


"The Irish government is basically arguing that as these schemes are

private arrangements, the people who drink the water are not consumers and

so do not come under the scope of the law," said one official. "We would

say that our staff and their children in the cr?®che constitute consumers."


But while Commission officials in the environment directorate-general are

insisting on the importance of the health clampdown, fonctionnaires in the

administration department are playing down the threat posed to its own

staff by the water.


They insist the move to new premises will proceed once building work is

complete and will not depend on any ruling on the legality of Ireland's

water provisions.


Copyright 2001 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.



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Edited from Earthwatch /Friends of the Earth Magazine, Spring 2001:


A petition has been filed with the President of the European Parliament challenging the location of the newly built Food and Veterinary Offices at Grange, County Meath. 30 million Euros are being spent on the third seat of the European Commission. It's to be Brussels, Luxembourg, - and Grange.

A 1993 Resolution of the Commission stated that the Offices should be "in a town". Grange is the name of a farm in Derrypatrick Grange, Kiltale, Dunsaney, County Meath. There is no legal entity called Grange at this location.

Fine Gael leader John Bruton is alleged to have laughed it off when originally challenged in Brussels - claiming it was a townland and that townlands were Irish population centres. There are Granges in the urban area of Dublin and Grange is a Town in Sligo - but this location is in the middle of nowhere and clearly zoned in the County Plan for agriculture.

The big plus - an "extensive site was provided by Teagasc" -another Government Department. And of course it happens to be in the Fine Gael leader's constituency.

In fact, the offices are located 12 km from Trim on land and water heavily polluted, probably by the intensive Teagasc farm nearby. This farm hosts 900 beef cattle on 249 hecatres - 179 hectares of spread land. Thsi is a population equivalent of 10,800 people. The source of the group water scheme is a shallow well and contamination has been regularly chronicled in the local papers and in every year's EPA report "The Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland".

The Kiltale Group Water Scheme - which is due to supply the workers water - is notoriously polluted, sourcing in a shallow well some kilometres away. The petitioner ask if the e-coli may now be joined by buried BSE carcasses from the nearby Government beef herd. The sole reference to water in the planning permission was the requirement for a meter to record use so that a charge could be levied.

There is no public transport and no housing available for staff. The local authority permitted the location on the grounds that it was "agricultural related" - as if the Senior European bureaucrats who will staff the office were local farmers who would scrape the mud off their boots before entering the foyer.

The local authority have used the usual commercial/private double standard to refuse the required staff housing while permitting the massive headquarters building. One local resident was condemned to a caravan, planning permission on the family farm having been turned down. There are numerous refusals for private residences in the area. The developers, the Office of Public Works, are on record with a letter to the Taoiseach making representations to further erode the Development Plan by seeking derogation for staff housing - exactly the opposite of planned development.

The Petitioner asks the President to "determine the detrimental effects the decision to construct new offices in a rural and agricultural zoned farm in County Meath will have on the good and proper functioning of the office and to monitor the effect that this decisions has had on the recruitment, retention of staff, staff moral and the acute disadvantages and discrimination that staff, their spouses and children will have to face with this relocation from Dublin City".

The Petitioner charges that the decision to locate here by the Irish authorities was take in spite of the knowledge that it would cause the office to fail to function properly and that such a failure would undermine further plans of decentralization of other departments from Brussels.

The planning irregularities alleged are a familiar litany to readers of Earthwatch Magazine: no environmental impact statement, documents missing from files, files missing from the public record, inaccuracies in descriptions of developments, questionable percolation tests, no capacity tests for the water scheme, sewage capacity - and so on.

The petitioner argues that all staff members have a legitimate expectation and right of equal treatment for themselves and their families to enjoy rights enjoyed by their counterparts in the cosmopolitan and multicultural centres like Brussels and Luxemburg.

These rights include access to affordable public transport, with acceptable frequency day and night, including to Dublin airport, retail outlets, financial and postal services, sports, leisure, cultural, entertainment and medical facilities. In particular, the petition cites the practical and monetary difficulties in the children of staff attending the international School annexes at St. Andrews College, Blackrock, or the German, French, or Islamic schools in Dublin.

Most important in view of the expansion of the community and the danger of more Bruton-like decisions, the Petitioner asks for criterion to be incorporated in Guidelines for the future locations of such decentralized offices that include:

¬? the development needs of proposed decentralized locations

¬? the availability of suitable sites or offices

¬? transport links

¬? capacity of local infrastructure, particularly water, sewage, and telecommunications

¬? population ratio of the proposed relocation centre to the number of staff

¬? availability of primary, secondary, and third level housing and schools

Does this sounds strangely like proper planning and development?

In the Meath Chronicle of 24 February, Bruton's pipe dream continues:

"The European stage has been suggested as a future forum for Mr. Bruton's experience and talents, but he said he did not wish to comment on suggestions that he could be nominated as a future EU Commissioner.

He said he looked forward to the move by EU civil servants to the Grange Food & Veterinary Office and continues to stress the need for an international school to be established in conjunction with it. St. Peter's, Dunboyne or Dunshaughlin Community College could provide the location for this."




PETITIONING THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

The right of petition is the right which every citizen of the European Union enjoys, individually or in association with other citizens, to submit a request to the European Parliament or to table a grievance before it on any subject which falls within the spheres of activity of the Community and concerns him or her directly (Articles 21 and 194 of the EC Treaty, formerly Articles 8d and 138d).

Parliament's Committee on Petitions considers whether such requests are admissible. Where it sees fit, it may put a question to the Ombudsman. When drawing up an opinion on a petition deemed to be admissible, it may ask the European Commission to provide it with documents or information.

The Treaty of Amsterdam added a new paragraph to Article 21, stating that every citizen of the Union may write to any of the institutions, including the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee, and to the Ombudsman in any of the official Union languages (including Irish) and receive an answer written in the same language.



A petition has been filed with the President of the European Parliament challenging the location of the newly built Food and Veterinary Offices at Grange, County Meath. 30 million Euros are being spent on the third seat of the European Commission. It's to be Brussels, Luxembourg, - and Grange.

Earthwatch Magazine

March 2001


A petition has been filed with the President of the European Parliament challenging the location of the newly built Food and Veterinary Offices at Grange, County Meath. 30 million Euros are being spent on the third seat of the European Commission. It's to be Brussels, Luxembourg, - and Grange.


A 1993 Resolution of the Commission stated that the Offices should be "in a town". Grange is the name of a farm in Derrypatrick Grange, Kiltale, Dunsaney, County Meath. There is no legal entity called Grange at this location.


Fine Gael leader John Bruton is alleged to have laughed it off when originally challenged in Brussels - claiming it was a townland and that townlands were Irish population centres. There are Granges in the urban area of Dublin and Grange is a Town in Sligo - but this location is in the middle of nowhere and clearly zoned in the County Plan for agriculture.

The big plus - an "extensive site was provided by Teagasc" -another Government Department. And of course it happens to be in the Fine Gael leader's constituency.


In fact, the offices are located 12 km from Trim on land and water heavily polluted, probably by the intensive Teagasc farm nearby. This farm hosts 900 beef cattle on 170 hectares - a population equivalent of 10,800 people. The source of the group water scheme is a shallow well and contamination has been regularly chronicled in the local papers and in every year's EPA report "The Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland".


The Kiltale Group Water Scheme - which is due to supply the workers water - is notoriously polluted, sourcing in a shallow well some kilometres away. The petitioner ask if the e-coli may now be joined by buried BSE carcasses from the nearby Government beef herd. The sole reference to water in the planning permission was the requirement for a meter to record use so that a charge could be levied.


There is no public transport and no housing available for staff. The local authority permitted the location on the grounds that it was "agricultural related" - as if the Senior European bureaucrats who will staff the office were local farmers who would scrape the mud off their boots before entering the foyer.


The local authority have used the usual commercial/private double standard to refuse the required staff housing while permitting the massive headquarters building. One local resident was condemned to a caravan, planning permission on the family farm having been turned down. There are numerous refusals for private residences in the area. The developers, the Office pf Public Works, are on record with a letter to the Taoiseach making representations to further erode the Development Plan by seeking derogation for staff housing - exactly the opposite of planned development.


The Petitioner asks the President to "determine the detrimental effects the decision to construct new offices in a rural and agricultural zoned farm in County Meath will have on the good and proper functioning of the office and to monitor the effect that this decisions has had on the recruitment, retention of staff, staff moral and the acute disadvantages and discrimination that staff, their spouses and children will have to face with this relocation from Dublin City".


The Petitioner charges that the decision to locate here by the Irish authorities was take in spite of the knowledge that it would cause the office to fail to function properly and that such a failure would undermine further plans of decentralization of other departments from Brussels.


The planning irregularities alleged are a familiar litany to readers of Earthwatch Magazine: no environmental impact statement, documents missing from files, files missing from the public record, inaccuracies in descriptions of developments, questionable percolation tests, no capacity tests for the water scheme, sewage capacity only 250 when staffing rate will be 250 alone and international conferences and meetings will be routine - and so on.


The petitioner argues that all staff members have a legitimate expectation and right of equal treatment for themselves and their families to enjoy rights enjoyed by their counterparts in the cosmopolitan and multicultural centres like Brussels and Luxemburg.


These rights include access to affordable public transport, with acceptable frequency day and night, including to Dublin airport, retail outlets, financial and postal services, sports, leisure, cultural, entertainment and medical facilities. In particular, the petition cites the practical and monetary difficulties in the children of staff attending the international School annexes at St. Andrews College, Blackrock, or the German, French, or Islamic schools in Dublin.


Most important in view of the expansion of the community and the danger of more Bruton-like decisions, the Petitioner asks for criterion to be incorporated in Guidelines for the future locations of such decentralized offices that include:


¬? the development needs of proposed decentralized locations

¬? the availability of suitable sites or offices

¬? transport links

¬? capacity of local infrastructure, particularly water, sewage, and telecommunications

¬? population ratio of the proposed relocation centre to the number of staff

¬? availability of primary, secondary, and third level housing and schools


Does this sounds strangely like proper planning and development?


Tony Lowes


Objections to a planning application from Mr Martin McAleese, husband of President Mary McAleese, for a holiday home in the Cootehall area were considered very carefully and very seriously by the county council, the County Manager informed the planning committee meeting of the council on Monday last.


President's holiday home gets green light from council

Objections to a planning application from Mr Martin McAleese, husband of President Mary McAleese, for a holiday home in the Cootehall area were considered very carefully and very seriously by the county council, the County Manager informed the planning committee meeting of the council on Monday last.

By

Brian Cunniffe

Mr Eddie Sheehy explained that the council decided to grant planning permission for the house, having been satisfied that to do so would be in accordance with the proper planning and development of the area and also in accordance with the County Development Plan. He added that they were satisfied that the construction of a modest residence would have no adverse affect on the environment.

Mr Sheehy was responding to queries from Senator John Connor who referred to a Sunday newspaper report indicating that the Friends of the Irish Environment are to appeal the council decision to An Bord Pleanala on the basis that the location will affect the feeding habitats of a flock of Greenland white fronted geese on the Shannon.

The Senator called upon the Manager to make a statement and queried whether or not the Friends of the Irish Environment had contact with the Manager or the planning section of the council. He stressed that he welcomed the decision of the President to choose County Roscommon for a holiday home.

Commenting that he was sure that the planning application was dealt with in accordance with all good planning practices, Senator Michael Finneran remarked that the council is very glad that the President and her family have decided to build a home in County Roscommon.

Senator Finneran added that it is now the wish of the council that the planning decision should stand and they should forward a resolution to An Bord Pleanala to that effect.

Cllr Des Bruen seconded the proposal.

Cllr Eugene Murphy asked who are the Friends of the Irish Environment.

Cllr Frank Feighan remarked that he would love to see the President and her family being able to have a home in the Boyle Electoral Area.

The Council Chairperson, Tom Crosby, suggested that the President had been considering the village of Tarmonbarry.

The County Manager confirmed that there had been a number of objections. He stressed that the council was also concerned about the habitats of snails and geese, but had an enviable reputation regarding the protection of the environment and did not need an outside organisation to guide them.


(c) Roscommon Herald,
13 October, 2000



Offices at Grange, Co. Meath - Index
The real story surrounding the location of the new EU Food and Veterinary [FVO] Offices in a remote location in County Meath.


From Earthwatch Magazine, February 2001


The Offices that were permitted because they were agricultural related - and the employees who can't now build homes at a sustainable distance because the land is zoned agricultural.


Economist EU Voice 15 February 2001:

Animal waste found in water supplies at new food safety site.


From the Sunday Times, February 25, 2001

EU officials are fleeing to Brussels rather than moving to new offices being built in a remote part of Meath.


Economist EU Voice 30 May, 2001:

MEP Patricia McKenna said the foot-and-mouth outbreak underlined the risks of such a rural location. "They visit farms where they are in contact with contagious diseases, they will then be coming directly back to another rural area."


Earthwatch Magazine, June 2001:

How the Minister and the local authority failed in the statutory duty to inform residents of the polluted water...

Footnote: The residents fight back.


Radio Roscommon

10 October, 2000

12:22 PM

Interviewer: Shamus Duke

Fine Gael Senator John Connor, Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon.

FIE: Spokesman


Shamus: Senator, tell me about the latest twist in the saga about President Mary MacAleese who has applied for planning permission to build and reconstruct a house in County Roscommon.

Senator: Yes. As you know Roscommon County Council granted the President planning permission to build a house on one of the lakes in the River Shannon - I think its called Lough Eiden - its in the Cootehall Carrick-on-Shannon area and I must say I am delighted the President has chosen this location and would be fully supportive of the application. And anyway over a week ago maybe a fortnight ago now Roscommon County Council after the usual investigation and consultation granted planning permission for this construction and we now notice that according to a report in one of last Sunday's newspapers that a certain group called the Friends of the Irish Environment, a group that I had never heard of before, has decided to appeal the decision to grant planning permission to An Bord Pleanala - in other words they objected strongly to it - on the basis they say that a there is a colony of Greenland white fronted geese in that area of the River Shannon who make their winter habitat and this would be injurious to them. I doubt that very much but that's my opinion…

Shamus: Yeah but sure…I know that yee know that its you that's questioning their questioning of it, as it were, but I mean but the President is building the house not in the middle of the River.

Senator: Oh not of course not!

Shamus: Do you know what I mean?

Senator: Of course naturally enough. But I was asking the County Manager yesterday. It arose as a matter of getting information on the issue that I raised it at our planning meeting yesterday. I was asking the County Manager if in fact this organization had contacted the County Council during the investigation of this planning application and he confirmed to me that in fact they had. So they had if you like dismissed their concerns and they are now taking their concerns to An Bord Pleanala. Of course everyone has the right to do that…

Seamus: Absolutely…

Senator: But I am inclined to get a little [indistinguishable] background of this particular organization because I had not heard of it before and this is by way I am afraid I wasn't able to get any further information as to the origins or the base of this organization or where it has its - holds it office or what have you in the country.

Seamus: Right. And they have anyone locally we could talk to?

Senator: Not that I know about. I understand from the reply that I got at the County Council meeting that the correspondence they received came from some national office from somewhere else in the country to the County Council basing or using these objections to the grant of planning permission. Of course we register in the national newspapers, it has been reported in the national newspapers during the planning stages as we call it. It has now reached the stage where there is to be an objection to ABP.

Seamus: While we people in this country are entitled to object to what we want to within the law, are we not becoming a nation who will object to everything that's controversial?

Senator: Yes I'm afraid I'm inclined to agree with the Taoseach on this, he has made the point that much badly needed developments are held up by objections that are often just vexatious and really don't have any great foundation and maybe we need to look at the law in that area. Now I'm the first to defend individual's rights to raise objections and so on but I think that certain objections to particular projects - leaving aside the President's - look at the building of say a very badly needed road scheme, the building of an industrial site or something like that - that these things can be held up for years and income to hundreds of people that could be lost for years as a result of objections that at the end of the day are found to have very little foundation. That takes the same length of time as if the objection was very well founded, you know, that might have been upheld by an appeal so I think you know we need to look at that area, to look at the foundations of most appeals and certainly there should be a time limit on them where appeals can go on for years with great economic loss and maybe other losses as well to many people and the public good not very well served.

Seamus: Friends of the Irish Environment who are you and where did you come from?

FIE (laughs) Well, the easiest way to answer that is to go on the internet and go to http://homepage.eircom.net/~ireland and you'll find all our - Campaignss and objections up there. I appreciate the Senator is a very busy man but he appears not to have heard us on your radio programme last year when we discussed the background to all this - which is the Rural Tax Incentive Schemes being put in place with no environmental controls.

Seamus: We did speak about that , however, ah, why object especially to President MacAleesse's building a house in Killmacarrill?

FIE: What we are objecting to is that the Shannon is one of the finest rivers in Europe and the longest in these islands and if we allow the shores of this river to be lined with the second homes of the wealthy its going to be a tragedy for future generations. They will never see the beauty of this place. Is that what the Senator wants? Does he want the river lined with jetties and holiday and retirement homes? This is the nation's asset we're talking about here!

Seamus: Right. How many other homes along the River Shannon planning permission for which you have objected in the recent past?

FIE: We are only beginning,

Seamus: The answer to that is none? Why object to this one in particular - is it just because it belongs to the President.

FIE: No its not just because it's the President's home. The Senator is in fact wrong in saying that it's the President's home. The planning permission was not given to the President. It was given to Dr. Martin MacAleese.

Seamus: That's semantics now, we know he's her husband.

FIE: Our objection never mentions that. We're talking about planning, we're talking about protection of an Natural Heritage Area, we're talking about the increased number of jetties and marinas and houses that are appearing in planning applications along the River Shannon. We're going to have strip marinas up there unless somebody says stop. It'll be just like the Sea Side Tax Incentives and you won't like it one bit when its there.

Seamus: Hummm. Well, in response to what you've been saying there, why just object to this one? Is it because it will get you maximum publicity and people like me will be ringing up people like you about it?

FIE: Look, we don't have the resources of an organization like An Taisce. We don't have that kind of resources and we're not a statutory body and we don't get funding from anyone - we're a group of environmentalists who are committed and concerned. And in particular we have been very concerned about the Rural Tax Incentives being put in with no environmental controls because we've seen what happened with the Sea Side Tax Incentive Schemes. This objection follows on directly from our concerns with the Tax Incentive Areas which we talked about when they were announced last year.

Seamus: So what's the situation? You have put in your objection to An Bord Pleanala?

FIE: We'll be lodging our appeal before Friday, which is the last day. And what I'd like to do is to send to the Senator a copy of our appeal. He would see that its not vexatious - its long, its deals only with planning arguments, it has excellent photographs and he will be in no doubt about what environmentalists think about this kind of proposal.

Seamus: Hummm. Finally, the Friends of the Irish Environment - like who are in your group? Have you got members all over the country?

FIE: Yes - I'd refer you back to the website - there is a list on the front of the website of about 14 people in different parts of the country with different interests. Most of us work for other environmental organizations in other roles and we were looking for a network rather than a structure with grants and all their problems. We wanted to be able to raise cases and policies where we think the country is at risk and highlight them as well as we can. So there's nothing vexatious about us.

Seamus: You're not professional objectors?

FIE: (Laughs) No - if we were professional objectors we would have been knocked out long ago! In fact we won an appeal today in County Wicklow on almost the same grounds we are looking for here - scattered diverse development in the countryside, insufficient protection for the natural heritage, against the County Development Plan, unsustainable - there they are all listed in the reasons the Board gave for upholding our appeal and reversing the decision of Wicklow County Council.

Seamus: All right, all right - thanks for talking to us today.

FIE: Anytime, Seamus.