Supporting Local News

Campaign raises €60,000 for legal battle against Gort biogas plant

More than €60,000 has been raised in less than a week to mount a legal challenge to the highly controversial Gort Biogas plan.

A public meeting in the town last week attracted over 400 residents opposed to the €40 million facility after An Bord Pleanála issued its shock decision to grant planning permission – overturning Galway County Council’s refusal a little under three years ago.

The meeting was organised by the Gort Biogas Concern Group, which vehemently opposes to plans to develop the biogas plant on a 25-acre site just one mile outside the town.

A spokesperson for the group told the Connacht Tribune this week that after six days, over €60,000 had been gathered through online donations and commitments from various local sources.

And Ciarán O’Donnell said thanks to this generosity, legal representation had been secured and they were preparing to launch a judicial review of the Board’s decision to grant permission to Donegal-based Sustainable Bio-Energy Ltd’s plans.

“We’ve had phenomenal support and to raise that much in six days just shows how much this matters to people. We have had everything from a kid in third class putting in €5 to people who are in a position to donate more putting in significant amounts. It has struck a chord with everyone.

“To get 400 people out to a meeting on wet night in early January just shows how committed people are to stopping this from happening,” said Mr O’Donnell.

The biogas facility, which was given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanála just two days before Christmas, is to be constructed on lands in the townlands of Ballynamantan, Kinincha and Glenbrack – an area of significant environmental importance, he continued.

In addition, he said the development would “destroy the town” of Gort and such were local concerns that businesspeople were standing up at the meeting last week offering up donations to fight the planning permission in court.

“People were shocked at An Bord Pleanála’s decision because it seems totally dismissive of these concerns and makes huge assumptions about the lack of impact the biogas plant would have, without any facts to back them up.

“You’d have to wonder if they even read the submissions that were made, from bodies like the EPA and those of local people,” said Mr O’Donnell.

He said the Concern Group was “full steam ahead” with the judicial review as of yesterday (Wednesday), and legal representation had been engaged.

Meanwhile, local TD Ciarán Cannon (FG) launched a stinging criticism of An Bord Pleanála this week, branding their decision to overturn Galway County Council’s ruling as “appalling”.

“I’m at a complete loss as to why this appalling decision was taken by An Bord Pleanála. It flies in the face of proper planning and development and completely dismisses the very serious concerns expressed by senior planners in Galway County Council,” said Deputy Cannon.

On five separate occasions in their decision, County Planners said the proposals were contrary to proper planning of this rural area, he continued, raising concerns about dangerous traffic movements, injury to local amenities and the lack of detail in the applicant’s environmental impact assessment.

“All of these concerns, expressed by highly experienced planners who know our county well, were just brushed aside in a manner that defies logic. I am completely supportive of local community activists who are now left with no option but to take legal action to protect Gort and its future,” said Deputy Cannon.

The concept of biogas production was not at issue, he said, but rather the scale of what was being proposed.

“It’s the size of 14 soccer pitches. It would have 12 massive tanks on site, each with a capacity of two Olympic swimming pools, and all of this is proposed for a location ten metres from the Gort River and constructed on highly porous limestone rock.

“It would require transporting 350 tonnes of feedstock into the site every working day and the spreading of two swimming pools of slurry every week during slurry spreading season. It’s just mind boggling what’s being proposed here and our local planners acted correctly in refusing permission for it,” said the Galway East TD.

(Image: last week’s public meeting. Photo by John Morley/Galway Bay FM)

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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