An 18 month investigation into why complaints about quarries around Ireland that are not meeting conditions imposed on them by local authorities has ended with a letter from the Ombudsman to FIE stating that the legislation designed to regulate quarries is unenforceable.
Quarry registration was the last section of the 2000 Planning Act to be implemented and it did not come into effect until 2005. Now 4 years later the Ombudsman is unable to make finding of maladministration against a local authority for not enforcing the conditions they imposed as ‘they are not in a position legally to conduct an administrative action'.
The Ombudsman noted that the Department has provided no time frame for amending the legislation. Not only has the environment been damaged by this long standing legislative failure and great hardships imposed on residents, but many millions in development levies can no longer be collected.
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
PRESS RELEASE QUARRY LEGISLATION ENFORCEABLE
Legislation designed to regulate quarries is unenforceable, according to the Ombudsman.
Under the 2000 Planning Act, quarries which were already operating were required to apply for registration. The aim of the legislation was to achieve a final decision at the end of the registration process which was as accurate, comprehensive and enforceable as reasonably possible and which minimised the environmental impacts of the quarry.
For example, Cork County Council received 97 applications for the registration of existing quarries in the county by the deadline on April 27th 2005. Of these, 65 were considered valid applications. 12 were deemed to require planning permission because they were greater than 5 hectares in extent or located in a protected European site. 57 proceeded through the registration process.
Public notices were published by the planning authority and submission and observations were made by the public which the local authorities were obliged to take into consideration. Conditions, including the payment of development contributions, were imposed by Councils on the operation of these quarries.
However, an 18 month investigation by Friends if the Irish Environment into the failure of registered quarries throughout Ireland to meet their environmental conditions has now ended with a letter from the Ombudsman.
This letter informed the group that the Department of the Environment has informed the Ombudsman that conditions imposed under this Act are unenforceable as ‘the act did not provide a mechanism for pursuing legal proceedings for non-compliance.’
In relation to the test case in County Cork provided to the Ombudsman, the letter explained that the Ombudsman could ‘not make a finding of maladministration against a local authority if they are not in a position legally to conduct an administrative action’.
The Ombusdsman noted that the Department has provided no time frame for amending the legislation. A spokesman for the environmental lobby groups said that ‘Residents around the country have been complaining to us about out of control quarries that are paying no heed to the conditions imposed after the lengthy registration and consultation process.
‘It now appears that the failure of this legislation remains unaddressed by the Department of the Environment.
‘Not only has the environment been damaged by this long standing legislative failure and great hardships imposed on residents, but many millions in development levies can no longer be collected.