Locals in the Ballyshannon area are shocked and disappointed at An Bord Pleanala’s decision to give the green light to Kilsaran Concrete’s plans to open a quarry to extract 3 millions tonnes of sand and gravel at Racefield.
They are angry that the decision disregards all their concerns and ignores the professional opinions of Kildare Co Council and An Bord Pleanalas own inspector which recommended it be turned down.
However, after 18 months of examining the application An Bord Pleanála has given the plan the green light to the project.
The BP inspector had found that the quarry would seriously injure properties near and around Ballyshannon because of traffic, noise, general disturbance, and would cut property values.
However, An Bord Pleanála ruled that it would not seriously damage visual or residential amenities in the area, and claims that property values would be hit were not demonstrated, it said.
In its ruling, the planning board noted that the inspector had expressed satisfaction that the extraction of 3 million tonnes of sand and gravel would not damage local air quality.
Kildare County Council had refused planning permission for the proposal in November 2019 across several grounds resulting in Kilsaran Concrete lodging an appeal with An Bord Pleanála.
The objections to the quarry had come from the Aga Khan, jockey Ruby Walsh, along with horse breeders led by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (ITBA).
Local Kildare TDs, councillors, schools and nearby residents also objected to the proposal to take 250,000 tonnes of sand and gravel over 12 years from the 32 hectare Racefield lands.
The Aga Khan has two stud farms to the east of Racefield, and another two a short distance to the north. The creation of a quarry so close to them “would be very damaging”,” he said.
Jockey Ruby Walsh expressed concern for the health of his family and the sustainability of his equestrian business at Tippeenan House, Kilcullen if the quarry proceeds.
In his objection to An Bord Pleanála, the retired jockey stated: “Investors in thoroughbreds will not want to have horses in such an area as this if the quarry starts.”
The site is at present used by local farmers for use as pasture and arable lands.
Kilsaran Concrete said it needs guaranteed sources of supply to meet the demands of the construction industry, along with the demands created by the National Development Plan.
In its appeal to An Bord Pleanála against Kildare County Council’s decision, the company said their plans would not negatively impact on nearby residents or the horse industry.
There are 56 homes within 1km of the proposed extraction area while Ballyshannon National School is 1.5km from the site.
The 250,000 tonnes-a-year extraction “would be considered small” by comparison with other quarries, Kilsaran said, while “mitigation measures” would ensure that local residents would not “experience significant long term adverse impacts”.
Mr Downes stated that there are over 160 stud farms and training establishments in the county.
Saying that 5,000 people are employed in horse breeding in Kildare, the chief executive of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, Shane O’Dwyer warned of the dangers the quarry will pose.
“Our primary concern is the effect that the development may have on the respiratory tract of the horse who is an equine athlete,” he said, adding that substantial operations lie with 3km of the quarry.
“Breeders need to operate in a clean, green environment and our members contend that the development will severely affect the breeding of thoroughbred horses.”
The Kildare County Council planner’s report concluded that the proposed quarrying at this site “will have a significant adverse impact on the existing residential amenities of properties in the vicinity as well as general amenities of the wider area”.
The report stated: “The establishment of a quarry on land currently used for agricultural purposes for decades in a rural community where there is no industrial activity will result in a significant change to the rural character of the area.”