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Bord Pleanála rejects Japanese Knotweed treatment facility

News

Anton McNulty

PLANS by a Kerry-based company to develop a Japanese Knotweed soil recovery facility near Ballyhaunis has been refused permission by An Bord Pleanála.
Pollution and Construction Solutions Ltd trading as the Japanese Knotweed Company appealed a decision made by Mayo County Council to An Bord Pleanála for refusing planning permission to develop a facility to treat soil and stone waste containing Japanese Knotweed at a disused quarry at Hazelhill/Drumbaun, Ballyhaunis.
The project was to be the first of its type in Ireland, the UK or Europe and the developers claimed that it would help eradicate Japanese Knotweed from infected soils around the country.
Japanese Knotweed is one of the most evasive alien plants in Ireland and can cause damage to houses and roadways and grow through concrete. The plant ‘thrives on disturbance’ with just 0.7grammes of the plant capable of forming a new plant. In the past, fly tipping and transportation of soils containing fragments of the plant has been a major cause of it spreading.
Mayo County Council refused planning permission for the facility in April after expressing concerns that the developers could not guarantee the invasive plant would not spread from the site.
This was rejected by the developers who proposed a strict comprehensive set of procedures that in their opinion would ensure the Japanese Knotweed will not spread from the proposed facility.
The removal of Japanese Knotweed from the soils was to be achieved by a combination of screening, picking and growth management, without the need for herbicide treatment. The root and crown material of the plant will be placed in double skinned and sealed bags for removal to a waste to energy facility for destruction off site.

‘Significant spread’
In her report, Sarah Lynch, an inspector with An Bord Pleanála said that despite the company’s submissions, she felt they had failed to ‘adequately demonstrate that the proposed treatment process is effective’ and as a result expressed serious concerns that the development could result in the ‘significant spread’ of Japanese Knotweed within the site and surrounding area.
Ms Lynch also expressed concerns that with up to 24,000 tonnes of soil to be accepted on the site per annum, the site would reach capacity relatively quickly and there was no contingency plan or overflow area within the site to prevent the storage of such soils in ‘inappropriate locations’.
A local residents’ association also raised concerns in relation to noise and dust disturbance  from the proposed development and Ms Lynch found that the applicant failed to adequately assess the ‘potential impacts’ to neighbouring residential properties.
Ms Lynch recommended that the application be refused and this was accepted by the board of An Bord Pleanála who stated that it would pose ‘an unacceptable risk of environmental pollution’ and would therefore be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.