Irish Times - 04-05-05
Minister for the Environment Dick Roche has relaxed Government guidelines on waste which are expected to ease planning restrictions on major waste projects such as landfills and incinerators.
The new guidelines, which were included in the announcement of a series of directions aimed at targeting illegal dumping and unlicensed waste sites, will make it easier for incinerators and landfills to accept waste from outside their own regions.
The move follows lobbying from waste firms which have been arguing that the current guidelines are too restrictive. Government policy currently stipulates that each of 10 separate waste management regions must deal with its own waste under the "proximity principle".
As a result, many of the facilities that have received planning approval in recent years have had strict conditions attached, restricting them to accepting waste from within their own region, or to allowing only a small portion of waste from outside the region.
The new guidance, issued under waste management legislation by Mr Roche, states that the proximity principle should still be applied. However, waste management boundaries should not be interpreted in such a strict sense "as to inhibit the development of waste infrastructure" that would be in line with national waste management policy objectives "through the rational development and use of such infrastructure".
Yesterday Mr Roche said the new guidance was issued on foot of advice from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it should be eased and that the current guidelines were overly restrictive.
He said the practical implications meant that, in some cases, waste could not travel to the nearest waste management facility because it was over a waste management border.
The new directions to local authorities stipulate in general principles how illegal dumps must be dealt with in future, including removal of illegal waste, where possible, when it is close to residential areas or environmentally sensitive areas.
Landowners should also be held personally liable and pursued in civil cases for the costs of remediation by local authorities, and the landfill levy should also be applied to illegal dumping that has taken place since 2001.
The guidelines were criticised by opposition parties, with the Green Party saying it was "sceptical" of the proposals.
Environment spokesman Ciarán Cuffe TD accused Mr Roche of "talking out of the side of his mouth on this issue".
"On the one hand he is saying that he does not want an 'unnecessarily restrictive approach' and on the other he wants 'robust actions'."
Labour Party environment spokesman Eamon Gilmore said the directive would have little impact unless the Government provided it with funding.
The guidance was welcomed by the EPA which also confirmed that an audit and risk assessment of all old and disused dumps had begun, in the wake of last week's European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland.
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment