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Poolbeg incinerator not part of fast-track plan
Irish Times Friday, January 21

A controversial incinerator proposed for the constituency of the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, will not be included in renewed Government plans for a fast-track planning process for major infrastructure projects. Yesterday, the Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche, told The Irish Times that while he intended that crucial waste facilities, such as incinerators, would come under the plans, the specific proposal for a municipal incinerator in Poolbeg would not.

Mr Roche moved to quell speculation on divisions within Government on the planned Critical Infrastructure Bill amid growing criticism from industry that planning delays on essential infrastructure projects were now impacting on competitiveness.

The Government announced plans for the Bill nearly two years ago. Attempts last year by the previous minister for the environment, Mr Martin Cullen, to get agreement at Cabinet for the legislation failed following opposition from Ministers, mainly Mr McDowell.

The exclusion will be seen as a victory for Mr McDowell, who has publicly stated his opposition to the proposed site, and had given assurances to constituents that it would not get fast-track planning.

In November Mr Roche announced he was withdrawing the Bill from Government to review aspects of the proposed legislation.

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, Mr Roche said he had no intention of excluding any specific type of project from the bill, and that was "never the purpose of the review".

He said that in the case of Poolbeg, he did not want to see it included in any fast-track planning process because he did not want the debate on the proposed legislation to be entangled in a debate on a specific project.

"My clear view is that the plans for Poolbeg should be considered under the existing planning legislation," he said.

"The purpose of the Bill is to deal with general problems we have encountered with the planning processI don't want the strategic infrastructure Bill to be seen as facilitating any specific project or to be caught up in any local issue."

Mr Roche said he had also held discussions with Mr McDowell on delays to major projects caused by legal actions, and said he had no doubt the legal system was "being used to frustrate and stymie developments".

Mr Roche's comments echoed those of the Taoiseach, who indicated that incinerators would have to be built in the Republic under fast-track planning rules.

Speaking in Shanghai, Mr Ahern said the Department of the Environment was re-examining the planning rules.

Asked specifically about the need for greater speed in the creation of incinerators, Mr Ahern replied: "If you have a broad National Infrastructure Board that puts everything through a fast track, it will not work. People will just see this as a back door trying to press controversial projects through. That won't work. In our system that will inevitably bring just more litigation."

However, he added: "We cannot go on; we cannot go on as a country exporting our offal to other countries and ask them to incinerate it.

"We can't go on exporting our medical waste to be incinerated in other countries ... If you have a waste management policy, then we have to have a waste management policy that deals with our waste."
Liam Reid and Mark Hennessy
© The Irish Times


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