Oral submission by Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, on my own behalf and behalf of the East Cork Green Party, to An Bord Pleanála’s Strategic Infrastructure Division, with regard to the Port of Cork’s proposed development of a new container terminal and multi-purpose Ro-Ro berth at the Oyster Bank, off Ringaskiddy.

 

10th April 2008

Mr. Inspector

 I am here today principally as a resident of the harbour area, and also as a representative of the East Cork Green Party.  Over the years I have held various positions within the Green Party both nationally and locally, and I am currently the National Coordinator of the party, which means that I chair the party’s national executive committee, of which I have been a member for the past six years.  I am the chairperson of the Monkstown branch of the Cork Harbour Environmental Protection Association (CHEPA).  I am also the Mayor of Passage West, having been elected to Passage West Town Council in 2004, but the Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Marcia D’Alton, will present the Town Council’s submission to this hearing.  By profession I am a secondary school teacher, and I hold a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

 

1)    Introduction – the battle for Cork Harbour
This, Mr Inspector, is part of an ongoing battle for the right to live peacefully in Cork Harbour, and for the Harbour to develop in a sustainable way into the future – a way which balances the various needs of all the different residents and users of the harbour.  This battle has been ongoing for many decades, with the needs of industry having been winning most of the fights.  This has resulted in the Cork Harbour area taking more than its fair share of industrial development over the years, with a large number of chemical and pharmaceutical factories in Ringaskiddy and Little Island, the country’s only oil refinery in Whitegate, a power station (and soon to be more) in Aghada, and in the past there was also the country’s only steelworks on Haulbowline Island, as well as the fertiliser factory at Marino Point.  With these latter facilities now closed, the future of Cork Harbour is now very much at a tipping point. 

Should we continue to look at Cork Harbour as principally an industrial area, or can we now start to look beyond that and develop and enhance the natural beauty of the harbour, and allow it to develop the tourism and leisure infrastructure which it so badly needs to give the harbour towns employment possibilities into the future, as well as allow the residents of the harbour area to live peacefully.  This proposal by the Port of Cork is, in my opinion, very much a tipping point in the future direction development in Cork Harbour will take.  If it is allowed to proceed, then I believe that the further industrialisation of the harbour area will continue unabated, and the other potential developments in the tourism and leisure areas will be jeopardised.  If it is not allowed to proceed as currently proposed, then there is a real chance that Cork Harbour will become the national jewel that it should be, and thereby become a major national centre for tourism and leisure activities.

In this ongoing war the sides are very unevenly matched in terms of resources.  The industrialists, including the Port of Cork, have the financial muscle to bring in the big guns, a plethora of ‘so-called’ experts, who try to blast us into submission with figures and statistics.  On the other side you have the residents, who while they do not have the financial clout to bring in the heavy artillery to the battle, make up for that in sheer passion and commitment, and the guiding vision that this does not have to happen, and that there is a better way, and thankfully they have shown over the years a huge willingness to continue fighting for what they see as the best way forward for the Cork Harbour that they know so well, and love so much.

2)    Striking a balance
Your decision, and the decision of An Bord Pleanála, is very much about striking a balance between the competing uses of the harbour.  This development would turn the Lower Harbour of Cork into a port, operating 24 hours a day, rather than a harbour, and would seriously impact in a negative way on the many other uses and users of the harbour.  It is impossible to see any possible mitigation for these negative impacts on the residents and other users of the harbour, and on this ground alone this application should be refused.  This proposal is little more than a land grab by a private company, albeit with a public remit, and is contrary to the sustainable development of Cork Harbour and the harbour towns of Cobh, Monkstown, Passage West and Ringaskiddy, as well as any future developments on Haulbowline Island and Spike Island.

This proposed development is akin to many bad decisions made in the latter part of the twentieth century in this country, where economic considerations were allowed to overshadow social and environmental issues.  While this proposal might appear to make economic sense to the Port of Cork Company, it makes no sense in either social or environmental terms, or even in economic terms, for the wider community who would have to live alongside this development.  It carries with it a huge social and environmental cost, a cost which the harbour communities would still be paying dearly for many decades to come, long after economic gains from the development have been spent.  One only has to look at how much money it takes, for example, to do the urban regeneration of places like Ballymun, which has been underway for many years, or in parts of Limerick, which is just starting, or to look at the cost of making Galway’s water supply safe, to see how bad planning decisions can have far reaching costs, economic costs as well as social and environmental costs, long into the future.  Surely planning is about striving to strike a balance between the equally important social, environmental and economic needs.  In the past, economics was allowed to hold sway over social and environmental needs in too many decisions, but we can now see that there is a huge price to pay for that type of misguided decision making.  The long-term costs of trying to repair the damage to the social and environmental infrastructure afterwards far outweigh the short-term economic benefits to be had when economics is given too much sway.

The Port of Cork provides an essential service to the Cork region and to much of Munster, and it is of huge economic significance to the region.  While fully recognising the necessity of having port facilities within Cork Harbour, it is important that there is a reasonable balance struck between the competing users of the harbour.  This development could not be construed as striking a reasonable balance.  Due to the huge amount of industrial development already borne by the harbour area, quite simply enough is enough.  With the commitment to open up Spike Island as a heritage site, and with mixed use residential / commercial / marina / tourism developments in the offing for a number of brownfield site around the harbour such as at Passage West dockyard, and I hear that Rushbrooke shipyard has been sold very recently to a major Cork developer, it is clear that there is an impetus for development in the lower harbour to move away from the industrial and to develop the harbour into the tourism and leisure destination it should be.  There is also huge potential for a landmark development on the former Irish Steel site on Haulbowline Island, which could and should rival international icons such as Sydney Opera House or the Statue of Liberty, and which could be used as symbol to identify Cork Harbour around the world.  The proposals of the Port of Cork to expand their operations in the Lower Harbour are in direct conflict with these potential developments.

3)    This is the 21st Century, not the 20th Century
The genesis of the port’s proposed move from the city to Ringaskiddy goes back, I believe, as far as the 1970s, and it seems to me that the Port company’s thinking is very much stuck in the last century and has not woken up to the realities facing us in the 21st century.  The twin challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change which are facing the world today do not seem to have entered the Port’s thinking in any way as of yet.  Surely this is very bad planning.  Is planning not about looking forward and trying to work out how best to meet the challenges that are coming?  This whole proposal of the Port of Cork is based on looking backwards at what has been, instead of looking forward to what is coming.  They are expecting the next decades to continue with ‘business as usual’.  As anyone who has made even a cursory study of the potential effects of both Peak Oil and Climate Change will tell you, the one thing it won’t be will be ‘business as usual’.

As a committed environmentalist I have been reading about and studying the implications of both Peak Oil and Climate Change for many years.  While I do not claim to be any sort of expert in these areas, I know enough to know that they are real and extremely important, and that they should form a central part of all decision making from here on.  Ignoring them will not make them go away. 

Environmentalists and environmental issues are often, mistakenly, portrayed as being anti-business and even anti-progress.  As an environmentalist I have had to put up with many such misguided taunts and jeers over the years.  All these display is the ignorance of the person involved, and how firmly they have their head stuck in the sand.  In fact the opposite is true.  Environmentalists are acutely aware of the importance of economics and business, but the difference is that they will not support business at any cost.  All business is not good business.  What properly considering the environmental implications of a proposal does is to make that proposal far more likely to have long term viability.  Failure to properly consider the environmental implications, and to give them equal footing to the economic considerations, might result in short-term economic gains, but in the long term puts the whole project in jeopardy.  The Port of Cork, by more or less ignoring the issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change, have not properly considered the environmental implications of their proposal and have thereby not fully worked out the long-term implications.  If the building of a container terminal is not a long-term project, what is?  When the Peak Oil and Climate Change implications of this project are considered, it simply does not stack up.

This proposal to move the Port of Cork’s container terminal takes absolutely no account of the realities of peak oil.  Some reports suggest that world oil production peaked in 2006 (see http://www.aspo-ireland.org/index.cfm?page=viewNews&newsId=56), and while the International Energy Agency may deny this for reasons of political expediency, nobody really disputes that if we haven’t yet reached peak oil, it cannot be far away.  Once peak oil is reached, the price of oil will sky rocket, and the availability of oil as a transport fuel will decline, as it will become so expensive.  Many world economists and experts are predicting dire consequences unless positive action is taken fast.  The moving of the container terminal to Ringaskiddy would, de facto, cause a substantial increase in the overall consumption of oil for every container moved, as it would have to travel an extra eight miles or so on the back of a truck in very heavy traffic from Ringaskiddy to Cork, rather than on a ship up river to Tivoli.  In the peak oil situation, which is either already upon us, or very nearly so, it will become critical that the container terminal is able to integrate efficiently with other transport networks, as the cost of transportation will rise dramatically due to the cost of oil-based fuels.

The mass transportation of goods over long distances by road is, historically speaking, a very recent phenomenon.  When industrialisation first started in countries like the UK and Germany, the building of railways and canals, and linking them to ports, was very much part of the industrialisation process, as transportation of goods by road over long distances was not really viable.  It was only the development of the internal combustion engine and the subsequent development of the oil industry that made the mass transportation of goods by road possible, and brought it to the dominant role it has today.  Peak Oil however will see this relatively brief period of transport history come to a speedy end, as there is no realistic replacement for oil as a road transport fuel on the horizon.  Therefore putting the container terminal in Ringaskiddy is, in my opinion, pure short-sighted folly.

This application, or its accompanying EIS, takes no real account of the realities of climate change, or of the Government’s or EU’s Climate Change Strategies, which are fast becoming the cornerstones of decision making.  While some attempt has been made to redress this in the submissions made by the Port of Cork to this hearing, it is clearly only done as an afterthought, and was therefore not truly considered in the decision making around this project by the port company.  For an application of this magnitude to take such scant account of climate change is utterly arrogant and shows that the mindset of those proposing this development is very much stuck in the twentieth century, when cheap energy was abundant, and that they have not caught up with the realities of the twenty-first century, when energy prices will rise dramatically, and we will have to become energy conscious in everything we do.  For an Environmental Impact Statement to take such little account of this critical area of environmental impact really negates any value the document might otherwise have, and makes its production nothing more than a feeble attempt at window dressing.

With the issuing of a Carbon Budget by the Government last year for the first time as an indication of the way things are going, for this application to have made such a meagre attempt to acknowledge that we must reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, is negligent in the extreme, and this proposal should be rejected on that basis alone.  The transport sector in Ireland is the fastest growing sector in terms of CO2 emissions, and if we are to be serious about addressing climate change, we must radically reduce our CO2 emissions, particularly in the transport sector.  The fact that, in CO2 terms, it is far more efficient to bring containers to Tivoli on a ship for onward transportation by road or rail, than it is to bring those containers from Ringaskiddy to Cork on the back of a truck, seems completely lost on the Port of Cork Company. 

The fact that colossal amounts of energy (and therefore CO2 emissions) would be expended in reclaiming 18 hectares from the sea in Ringaskiddy gets no mention in this application or its EIS, when all that is really required is an upgrading of the handling equipment at the Tivoli container terminal, with far less impact in terms of CO2 emissions.

If we are to leave the planet in any kind of fit state for our children and our grandchildren it is encumbent on all of us, including the Port of Cork Company, to consider the twin environmental issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change issues in all our decision making.  To not consider them in our decision making is akin to having one’s head very firmly buried in the sand, and would lead us, like some sort of modern day dinosaurs, down a path to extinction.  We must, as a matter of intergenerational justice, take responsibility for our actions now, something the Port of Cork is clearly failing to do.  Do we really love our children?

4)    Should the Port of Cork really be considering leaving Tivoli?
The need to move the container terminal from its present location in Tivoli is not justified.  While the current facility is close to its maximum capacity, this is due to the handling equipment employed and not due to the availability of suitable storage space.  In fact there is more space available at Tivoli than they are proposing for the new facility at Ringaskiddy.  Upgrading the container handling equipment employed could substantially increase the capacity at Tivoli.

The Port of Cork claim that they need to move the container terminal out of Tivoli due to the limit on the size of ship which can dock there, due to the depth and width restrictions in the River Lee.  This is probably their strongest argument.  All ports have a limit to the size of ship they can take, and Cork is no exception.  The costs of this proposal, both environmental, social and economic, are not counterbalanced by the ability of the Port of Cork to accept bigger ships.  This is quite simply not sufficient justification for the huge negative impacts this proposal would have on so many people.  Overall, due to the long established use of Tivoli for port purposes, the possibilities there must be exhausted before other areas need to be considered.  I believe that there is still much more capacity available to the Port of Cork at Tivoli, and that this capacity is nowhere near exhausted.

If the Port of Cork can justify, and I contend that they cannot, the necessity to move the container terminal from Tivoli, then there are many possible sites around Cork Harbour which could be suitable.  The proposed site is unsuitable in so many ways, and while the Port say they have considered a number of sites around the harbour, they have not really given enough detail as to why they consider the Oyster Bank site to be the most suitable, and as to why the other potential sites are less suitable.  Many of the potential sites would require little or no reclamation and / or dredging.  It seems that the Oyster Bank site was chosen for purely economic reasons, as it is relatively cheap to reclaim.  Surely one of the most important factors in the building of a new port facility such as this would be that it is far away from any significant residential developments.  Before this development proceeds, at the minimum, a proper and detailed public site selection process must be gone through.

It is my contention, as a long time environmental activist and student of how environmental issues will affect the future, that in fact the proposal by the Port of Cork to move their container terminal to Ringaskiddy is actually contrary to the long term best interests of the port company itself, with knock on negative consequences for the economic wellbeing of the whole region.  The move to Ringaskiddy will entail an increase in the overall energy consumption per container transported due to the extra miles every container will have to be transported on the back of a truck.  It has long been the case that transport by ship is the most energy efficient, followed by rail, with road transport being the least energy efficient mode of transport.  This is why in the industrialised countries canals and railways were built.  With the cost of oil set to rise dramatically due to peak oil and the problem of climate change demanding a reduction in oil usage, this will substantially increase the cost of road transport, and in time, will probably render the long haul transportation of goods by road simply non-viable.  In this eventuality, rail transport of containers will become much more cost effective, particularly as there is the possibility of trains being powered electrically (from renewable sources ultimately) or being run on sustainable biofuels.  To have moved the container terminal to a location utterly dependent on road transport, and a location at the end of a peninsula and well away from the major routes to boot, will, I contend, be seen to have been akin to the decision to close railway lines in the early and mid twentieth century, i.e. ridiculously short-sighted.  Such a situation would make the whole region less competitive, and this would be extremely dangerous for the economy, given that Ireland has built itself up to be a completely open trading economy, based on the trading of goods internationally.

If you were to pick a point in Cork Harbour with the best level of interconnectivity with other modes of transport, whether that be road or rail, then I do not think you could pick a better spot than Tivoli, and therefore Tivoli should remain dedicated to port activities.  There is plenty of room elsewhere for the residential / commercial / marina type of development which the port is proposing for Tivoli.  Tivoli’s port capabilities are simply too important economically in the long term to be squandered for short-term financial expedience.

5)    Lack of clarity with regard to Port’s overall strategy
It is clear from the Port’s submission, and from discussions with the Port Company, that the Oyster Bank proposal is directly linked to the port leaving Tivoli, with the clear intention therefore to move all their port operations to the lower harbour.  It is clear that they wish to sell off all their lands at Tivoli, and to use the money from this to fund their land grabbing exercise in the lower harbour.  It is not clear where in the lower harbour they propose to move many of the port operations, and there is a real fear among the residents of the lower harbour that this is just the first phase of many.  While they have outlined in the current application their proposals for phase 2, to deal with the bulk cargoes dislodged from the City Quays, there is absolutely no indication as to where they intend moving the other operations currently taking place in Tivoli, such as the oil and gas facilities (which are Seveso II sites) and the export of lead and zinc ores from Lisheen mine.  Therefore this application should be considered premature, as it is impossible to properly assess the implications without getting a clear idea of the complete extent to which the port propose to develop the lower harbour.  Consideration of this proposal should be deferred until the port has published its complete plans for development in the lower harbour.

I wish it to be noted that in the context of the potential moving of the Seveso sites from Tivoli, the refusal of the HSA, the competent authority with regard to the Seveso Directive, to attend this hearing, as you, Mr. Inspector, requested, is an utter disgrace.

6)    Lack of National Plan for Ports and Shipping
There is no proper national plan or strategy for ports and shipping, and all of the port companies are set up to effectively compete with each other for business.  This is in direct conflict with the National Spatial Strategy, which aims for the Cork, Limerick and Waterford cities to work together as a region to try to compete with the economic dominance of the Dublin region in the Irish economy.  Surely it is better for the ports in the region to work together to maximise their collective potential and to provide the best possible port facilities for the region, rather than blindly competing with each other for business, with all the duplication of facilities that that entails.  If what is envisaged in all the different port companies’ development plans were to be realised, there would be huge overcapacity in the Irish ports.  Surely a more collaborative approach to development between the three main ports in the region, Cork, Waterford and Foynes, would be more constructive than their current antagonistic purely competitive approach.

7)    Contrary to Integrated Transport Planning
Shipping has a very important role to play in the international transport market, and particularly for Ireland as an island nation.  However shipping cannot usually provide a point to point transport service, and onward transportation is usually necessary, and always necessary in the container sector.  Therefore it is vital that shipping integrates as fully as possible with the other modes of transport so as to facilitate the onward transportation of goods, including containers. 

It would be hard to find a site better integrated into other transport networks in Cork Harbour than Tivoli.  It has easy access to the three main road arteries out of Cork City to Waterford, Dublin and Limerick, the N25, the N8 and the N20.  While it is not currently in use, it also has the possibility of a rail hub, being adjacent to the Cork – Cobh / Midleton line. 

It would also be hard to find a site worse integrated into other transport networks in Cork Harbour than Ringaskiddy, which is completely dependent on an already overcrowded N28, and from which the vast bulk of traffic would have to go through the Jack Lynch Tunnel, which is already recognised as being at full capacity in peak hours.  There is also no realistic hope of there ever being a rail link to Ringaskiddy, as the cost of bridging the River Lee to link it to the existing rail network would be prohibitive.  Ringaskiddy is quite simply on the wrong side of the harbour, and should have been ruled out as a potential location for this facility on this point alone.

In the future, as an island nation, shipping is going to be our lifeline to the world.  Due to peak oil and climate change, the period of dominance which air travel currently has is very short-lived.  In time, the idea of catching a plane to go on holidays, will, unfortunately, be a dim and distant memory.  It is highly likely that all international vacationing from this island will again be by ship, whether that be by cruise liner or ferry.  This is when Cork Harbour will really be able to come into its own time, both as a transport hub, and as a destination.

8)    Contrary to the Future Development of Tourism and Leisure Facilities in Cork Harbour
For many years now there has been a growing impetus for the tourism and leisure infrastructure of Cork Harbour to be developed.  As the second largest natural harbour in the world, second only to Sydney Harbour in Australia, Cork Harbour has not figured in any significant manner on the tourist map.  With the closure of Irish Steel / ISPAT on Haulbowline Island, many believe that now is the time for Cork Harbour to enhance its appeal as a destination for tourism and leisure.  This has been identified in all the major plans for the area.  In particular the town of Cobh has pinned its economic future to developing a significant tourism and leisure industry.  Mary Stack of Failte Ireland confirmed that Cork Harbour has been identified as an area with huge potential for tourism, in the very first submission made to this hearing.

With the proposals to open up Spike Island as a heritage site, the planning applications before Cork County Council for a river ferry service and for the mixed use residential / commercial / hotel / marina development on the Passage West dockyard, and with developments in the offing for Fort Camden, Haulbowline Island and Rushbrooke Dockyard, among others, there is much energy going in to develop Cork Harbour as a centre for leisure and tourism. 

This proposed development is completely contrary to this growing impetus, and has the potential to stop it in its tracks.  If the leisure and tourism sector reaches its full potential in the harbour, it will employ thousands.  For example it is projected that the development on the Passage West dockyard will employ approximately one thousand people when completed on its own.  Both the harbour towns of Cobh and Passage West have suffered in recent times through lack of employment within the towns, and the tourism and leisure sectors offer the best opportunities for these towns to develop an employment base in the future, and move them away from being mere dormitory towns, which is not sustainable into the future.  The development of the tourism and leisure industry in the harbour should quite simply allowed to be jeopardised by this development, which has minimal employment possibilities and negative economic implications for the area.  While fully recognising the port’s strategic economic importance for the region, there are plenty of other locations that must be considered, and which do not have such a devastating impact on the future development of Cork Harbour.

9)    Foreshore Development and Loss of Public Amenity
The proposed reclamation of 18 hectares of Cork Harbour, which is public property, to become the property of a private company is completely contrary to reason and natural justice, and therefore should not be allowed to happen.  The Oyster Bank is a public amenity, and is used by many for sailing, fishing, rowing and other aquatic leisure pursuits.  It is also used as a visual amenity for the many who walk in the area, including the many thousands who walk annually between Monkstown and Raffeen, and also those who walk along from Cobh to Whitepoint.  There is absolutely no proposal within this plan to compensate the public in any way for this loss of a precious amenity.

Monkstown Bay Sailing Club, who use the area regularly as a safe area in which thousands of young people have learned to sail, would particularly feel the loss of the Oyster Bank.  If it is allowed to be reclaimed, and with the consequent increase in ship movements in the area and the narrowing of the channel, this has the potential to make dinghy sailing in Monkstown Bay a thing of the past.  This would be criminal in an era when the levels of childhood obesity are growing, and when there is a huge need to improve facilities for young people in the area, as well as to improve access to the harbour for leisure purposes.  There would be no mitigation measures possible which would come close to compensating for this loss of public amenity.  As someone who spent the summers of his teenage years dinghy sailing on a daily basis, including being a national champion, I am fully aware of how good and healthy a pursuit sailing is for our young population, as well as our adult population, and any loss of this amenity is quite simply wrong.

10) Negative Effects on Adjoining Facilities
There are two significant national institutions in close proximity to the proposed development, and on which this development will have a significant impact.  The naval base on Haulbowline Island, the country’s only naval base, is in very close proximity to this development, and will inevitably be impacted by it.  However the Naval Service, as part of our Defence Forces, are not permitted to comment directly on this planning application.  With the naval base being manned 24 hours a day, and with sailors effectively living there, whether on board ship or on shore, the naval base should be considered a residential area, and it should be treated as such in this planning application.  Because of its very close proximity, many of the impacts discussed in this submission will be very strongly felt on the naval base, such as the noise impact, the light impact and the visual impact, as well as the traffic implications and possible hydrological problems.

Similarly the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) in Ringaskiddy, which is the cornerstone of the developing Maritime Campus Ireland in the Ringaskiddy and Haulbowline area, is in very close proximity to the proposed development.  With the naval service already in the area, and UCC are planning to move the HMRC (Hydrological and Marine Research Centre) to the Ringaskiddy area as part of Maritime Campus Ireland.  The effects on the maritime college will be very similar to those on the naval base, and the college would not benefit from being in such close proximity to such a large port operation.  With the recent announcement of a raft of grants and supports for the wave energy sector announced at the NMCI by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, which envisages Cork Harbour becoming the global centre for the exciting emerging wave energy sector, it is of critical national importance that Maritime Campus Ireland is allowed to grow and flourish unencumbered by noisy land-grabbing neighbours.

11) The Potential Impacts of this Facility for Residents
This development would be visible from a very wide area around the harbour, and would have a negative visual impact on a very large number of people living in the harbour, as well as thousands of visitors to the harbour, including tourists coming in to the Cobh Cruise Liner Terminal.  This visual impact would not just be during daylight, but also at night as the container terminal would be very well lit at night, and those lights would be visible from a very large area.  The area affected includes all of Monkstown, all of Ringaskiddy, and in Cobh an area from the centre of the town out to Rushbrooke, and Blackpoint and Whitepoint in particular, and including the large residential areas of Rushbrooke Manor, Rushbrooke Links and Norwood Park.  All in all this site would be visible from probably a couple of thousand houses, with huge negative consequences and loss of visual amenity for the thousands of people living in those houses.

There would also be huge visual and lighting impacts for the thousands of visitor to the lower harbour, whether they be walking in Monkstown, coming in to Cobh on cruise liner, or coming in to Ringaskiddy by ferry, to give just some examples.  As already discussed, with plans to increase the number of visitors to the lower harbour, this loss of visual amenity alone could jeopardise the potential for tourism development, as the Irish Steel / ISPAT plant did for many decades previously.

With previous noise monitoring in the area having shown that the EPA noise guidelines, particularly at night, are being currently exceeded in certain parts of the harbour, particularly in Blackpoint, Monkstown and Haulbowline, it would foolhardy in the extreme to allow this development to proceed, with the inevitable increase in background noise levels which would entail, and which would bring a wider area of the harbour in breach of the current noise guidelines.  These EPA noise guidelines are likely to be put on a legislative footing within the next year or so as there is a commitment to publish a bill on noise pollution in the current Programme for Government. (see http://www.greenparty.ie/en/library/agreed_programme_for_government/agreed_programme_for_government).  This bill will make breaches of noise pollution an offence, and with the lower harbour already being at or above the guidelines, all efforts should be made to reduce the background noise levels in the harbour, and not add to them.

As well as the issue of background noise, there is the issue of one off noise events like dropped containers, or repairs being made on the deck of ships.  In certain weather conditions, particularly at night, there is a very strong basin effect in the area of the Oyster Bank, where any noise gets echoed around the harbour.  In such conditions an event like a container being dropped would echo around the harbour and have everybody in the area awake.  People have a right to a peaceful night’s sleep, and putting a facility such as a container terminal which has the potential to make a lot of noise in such close proximity to large residential areas, is just wrong.

This is really a battle for people to remain living peacefully in the harbour they love.  Do we want the intrusions of industry to now extend their tentacles into new areas, which would be an inevitable consequence of this proposal.

12) No mitigation for the residents of the Lower Harbour
Probably the strongest argument against this development is the fact that almost no-one living in the area of the lower harbour wants this development to come to Ringaskiddy.  There is no gain to be had for anyone, except possibly those directly involved in the shipping industry (and it is questionable whether there is any gain for them).  On the other hand, as outlined above, there are substantial negative implications for the resident population of the lower harbour.  This population has grown substantially over the past decade or so, with large numbers of houses built on the hills above Rushbrooke, as well as smaller developments in Monkstown and Ringaskiddy, and with the likelihood of substantial developments with a residential component along the harbour, in Cobh, Rushbrooke, Haulbowline, Passage West and Ballynoe in the near future.  I had the privilege to chair two public meetings about this development, one in Monkstown and one in Cobh (Rushbrooke), on behalf of Cork Harbour Environmental Protection Association (CHEPA), both of which were packed, and with the overwhelming consensus of both meetings that this development was a bad thing, and severely detrimental to those of us who live in the harbour.  The only voice in favour of this development at either of these meetings came from someone with a vested interest in the shipping industry.  The Port of Cork is treating the residents of the harbour with contempt for proposing this development in the first place, and there is no manner in which those residents could be compensated for the impact of this proposal on their lives.

There is a very strong movement among the residents of the lower harbour, and a movement which is growing strength apace, against this development.  When the port company first published its proposals for Ringaskiddy, there was very little understanding of the extent of their proposals.  It has been left to those of us with a knowledge of what was at stake, in a voluntary unpaid capacity, to spread the word about what was really at stake.  As soon as people realise what is really at stake for them, they are unanimously opposed to this development.  They have no intention in standing idly by while they see the harbour they know and love being destroyed by land-grabbing greed. 

Cork Harbour is a jewel to be protected and enjoyed by all, and there is a growing army of those of us who will stand and fight to protect our harbour, and we will not allow it to be abused by anyone.  As always in these situations, there is somewhat of a David and Goliath situation at play here, with the port being Goliath and the residents of the harbour being David, and we all know who won that battle.  We, the residents, must give generously of our time and money to mount a reasonable defence of our harbour and of our rights and interests.  The Port of Cork is a highly successful and profitable company, and has ample resources available to it to hire the best heavy artillery money can buy.  However what the residents may lack in money and professional expertise, we make up for in passion and commitment.

Conclusion
There are so many compelling arguments as to why this proposal is wrong as outlined above, and the only argument really in its favour is the short-term bottom line of the Port of Cork Company, which should not be the concern of An Bord Pleanála or of the wider public, that I see that the Board has no option but to reject this foolhardy application.  To do otherwise would be, in my opinion, negligent in the extreme.

 

What Cork Harbour needs is an integrated planning approach, involving all the stakeholders around the harbour, to work out its best way forward.  I recommend that a special local area plan for the whole harbour region should be embarked upon as part of the review of the county development plan which is currently underway.  Perhaps the representative of Cork County Council here might pass this suggestion on to the County Manager.  I will be forwarding it to him myself anyway.

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