Alicia Ní G.
started this petition to
IRISH GOVERNMENT:Plastic Nurdle factory approved for development, no assessment
authorities look set to approve the construction of a plastics factory without
requiring an independent environmental impact assessment thereby threatening a
wealth of local eco-businesses, the health of the community at large and the
integrity of the untouched, pristine landscape of West Cork, two miles from marine conservation site, Lough Hyne. Globally, we
shouldn’t be creating more plastic. We need to be innovating it out of our
production cycles. Please sign and share this petition widely to ask Irish politicians
to consider the future role of these developments on a national level,
economically and environmentally, and help us make a small local stand in the
interest of a healthier, circular global economy for our children.
PLANS TO BUILD INDUSTRIAL
PLASTICS FACTORY ON GREEN BELT LAND IN STUNNING WEST CORK WITH NO CONSIDERATION
FOR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT?
We have waited 6 months
for a response from the Irish planning board, An Bord Pleanála (ABP), regarding
their decision to allow RTP Company to
erect a plastic nurdle factory on a former Green Belt site between Baltimore
and Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Ireland. We are still waiting - but how did the
application even get this far?
RTP, an American company with global reach, approached the Industrial Development
Authority (IDA) about their proposed development on untouched Green Belt
allocated land. It appears the IDA advised Cork County Council to rezone the
land and it seems they in turn advised local councillors. Local council voted for
the re-zoning of the land but were perhaps not aware of the nature of the
As unthinkable as it is,
RTP were given permission to build on this former Green Belt land without a Strategic Environmental Impact
Assessment or Habitats Directive Assessment. Permission was also granted completely
under the radar of public knowledge; the only notification regarding the
planning application was retrospectively unearthed in the form of a small
newspaper advert that the bulk of the local community did not even see.
We don’t know for sure how
informed government was to the nature of the factory in advance of this
re-zoning decision. What we do know is that RTP propose to build a
Thermoplastics Compound Facility where they will make plastic nurdles, small plastic pellets measuring 5 mm in
length. These are melted down and reconstituted with added properties like fire
retardants before being shipped back out again.
NURDLES- AN IMMEDIATE THREAT TO OUR
A report commissioned by
environmental charity, Fidra in 2016 estimates that up to 53 billion nurdles may be spilled each year from
land-based sources in the UK alone. That’s the equivalent of losing up to 88 million
plastic bottles to sea over the course of a year.
The current desire to rid
our oceans of plastic looks mostly at large scale plastics pollution but a plastic bottle takes years to break down. On the other hand, we know that microplastics are consumed and known to be eaten by a host of fish and seabirds, as they can be mistaken for fish eggs.
WHAT ABOUT THE AARHUS
Under EU regulation, all planning decisions are subject to environmental
assessments and must involve proper public consultation. However, in this case, it
appears the council assessed the requirement for both and decided neither
assessment was necessary. Unbelievably, the public were not notified about the
decision to re-zone the land, or the decision not to carry out these
assessments, or the fact that a company with waste water discharge would
potentially be built in the vicinity of two
Special Areas of Conservation; Lough Hyne, which is not only the first ever
Marine Reserve in the EU, but is arguably one of the most beautiful places in
the world, and Roaring Water Bay & Islands; areas of such stunning places
of natural beauty that tourists come in their droves to swim, sail and walk
ECONOMIC BURDENS THE
FACTORY WOULD IMPOSE- SO LITTLE TO GAIN AND SO MUCH TO LOSE
region’s economic well-being is not dependent on inward industrial investment
of this kind and we have so much to lose should planning permission be awarded.
Skibbereen is host to a first class digital and tech hub in the form of
Ludgate, which is at the forefront of nurturing sustainable business models for
the longevity and success of its start-ups, the community, and for the future
of jobs creation in the area.
Furthermore, Baltimore, Skibbereen and the West
Cork region at large is home to one of the biggest tourist and food industries
in the country, which are integral to the growth and success of the Wild
Atlantic Way - a government led initiative that has cost 40 million euro in the
way of promotion so far. Yet, government voted to have Wild Atlantic Way land
rezoned for a plastics factory that promised a mere handful of jobs and that
has the spectre of 10 to 20 truck loads
of plastic coming through the locale daily
via our narrow country roads. This factory will be open 24 hours a day and will
erect 4 chimneys measuring 17 metres in height.
‘JOBS!’ IS THE ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR OF THE
FACTORY BUT WHAT JOBS?
Firstly, RTP is a privately
owned company who may well benefit from grants and IDA assistance for the first
few years of business. RTP has 19 production plants in 7 countries and makes
over $1 billion in annual revenue. We don’t know the full benefit of the Irish Corporate Tax environment
for a company like RTP or how their subsidiaries will be incorporated into this
Regarding jobs for
Skibbereen locals, RTP promise 50 jobs to the area but their latest plastics
factory, erected in Poland 2017, a much larger build, is only home to 25
employees. Even if 50 jobs were to be created, let’s look at the cost of these
jobs to existing local businesses, jobs and the environment.
What about the thriving
fish and shellfish industry? The mussel industry alone in Roaring Water Bay,
Baltimore, is home to 70 employees and contributes 1.7 million euros to the
local economy every year. Mussels by nature are filters for pollutants like
metals and plastics. If such elements/ pollutants are traced during regular,
mandatory testing, the mussel industry here will be destroyed.
WEST CORK, WORLD FAMOUS FOR ITS FOOD
There are also hundreds
of other jobs generated by our food, farming, restaurant, hotel and tourist
industries. West Cork is home to two Michelin star restaurants, one located in
Baltimore and the other in Ballydehob, whose success to date is largely
predicated on the use of ethically sourced, local, seasonal ingredients. The
region is also home to a vast number of other award winning restaurants who
proudly devote their respective philosophies to the use of local, seasonal and
sustainable food, grown widely in the area by local farmers on land and sea.
These renowned restaurants employ a significant number of employees and attract
tourists as destination restaurants both seasonally and year round.
Should our food sources
become contaminated, we stand to lose our massive tourist populations who, not
only visit our destination restaurants, but also our landmarks, coastline and
conservation areas such as marine conservation site, Lough Hyne, situated only
two miles away from the proposed site!
WHY NO ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT?
It seems that local council and Cork County Council went on the advice
of an environmental consultant employed directly
by RTP who simply ruled out the need for an environmental impact
assessment. This was good enough for council but will it be good enough for The
Irish Planning Board? It can’t be good enough for the Irish Government or the
people of Ireland going forward.
We as a nation have a huge responsibility to
step up and improve our efforts to tackle climate change like our European partners.
Planners in this country are currently making environmental decisions with no
clue about the impact on ecology. When they have to, they rely on the advice of
ecological consultants who are employed by the developer. It’s high time local
and county councils all over the nation employed independent ecologists
directly so that our authorities are able to challenge the developer’s
consultants going forward.
HONEST ASSESSMENTS THAT
LOOK AT THE REAL COST TO OUR WATERWAYS AND FOOD SOURCES
It’s almost 2019 and
it’s time to call on our politicians to implement, in law, the necessity for
INDEPENDENT AND UNBIASED ASSESSMENTS before the next small factory or large
corporation applies for planning permission, without considering the
potentially devastating effects they may have on the environment. If we are
ever to hope for some semblance of democratic planning in this country, this is
the least we can ask for; honest assessments that look at the real cost to our
waterways and our food sources from an educated and independent point of view.
RTP’S application does
not deal with water pollution because this issue falls on the shoulders of
Irish Water. There is no specific documentation put in place on how the factory
waste will be treated, therefore the possibility of heavy metals, toxins and microplastics
going straight into the River Ilen is
Nothing was requested by
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because RTP told them they would not
exceed any thresholds that would trigger further reports, studies or a
requirement for an Integrated Pollution License. Without mandatory, independent
assessment by an ecologist, what stops other companies like RTP getting more
Green Belt land rezoned for the purposes of expansion?
PLASTICS FACTORY IN RURAL PARADISE IN
In recent years we have
been bombarded by images, documentary films and the results of a multitude of
unbiased studies carried out in order to assess and review the state of our
oceans and the impact the production of plastic has on marine life.
We don’t need to compile
a list of reasons why plastics are bad for the environment for the purposes of
this petition, never mind the chimney emissions or how well-equipped our water
treatment centre is to deal with inevitable plastic nurdle run-off. We know the
factory will not be good for our surroundings or the families who dwell a mere
400 metres from the proposed site.
If we don’t stop it
being easy for such global industries to demand planning permission for their
factories in such famously beautiful areas like West Cork; a relatively
untouched area with clean air and water, we will forever be powerless to
solving our international environmental crisis. If we lose these sacred spots,
we lose everything we have.
INTERNATIONAL CALL TO ACTION
This is more than just a
local issue or an Irish one; this is an international problem. If we, the
people, don’t have a say, we will forever remain powerless to stop such
extraneous infrastructure in our localities and cities.
This plastics factory is
only one example of development dominating over environment concerns in this
country. With international support, we can get the
Irish government to take notice and
enforce the implementation of independent environmental assessments so the
rezoning of land for the purposes of harmful plastics production, or other
environmentally harmful production, NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN.
We can’t do anything but
wait about the Planning Board’s impending decision right now but we can ensure
that local government will never authorise planning permission/ re-zone
green-belt lands again without unbiased
assessment. Without this insurance, we as Irish people don’t stand a chance
of protecting our precious natural environment, or of living in a country
which stands FOR the importance of democratic planning and AGAINST decision making taking place behind closed
doors. The future role of these developments should be a political issue
and one we need to tackle now, together.
While the final decision
is being ratified by the board, we ask for the support of the Irish community
and the international community in pulling together all the signatures we can
with a view to making permanent change to current planning requirements,
procedures and related laws for good.
Ireland are sadly ranked
the second worst European country for
tackling climate change. Poland, home of the latest RTP development, is
ranked the worst.
Is this what we want for West Cork, for Ireland, for Europe for our
world? If not, please sign, share and show your support.
Thank you for your time and support.
Alicia Ní Ghráinne
West Cork Green Business Alliance
Save Our Skibbereen