PLANNING delays and a lack of urgency at Government level could jeopardise the proposal by CPL Industries to build a €22m smokeless fuel plant and create over 140 new jobs in Foynes.
Foynes remains the number one location for CPL, the company’s chief executive Tim Minett was keen to stress when he visited last Thursday.
“This still remains our number one focus as a location. But we are looking at other locations,” he said.
The company, he explained, had already had to submit its plans twice to Limerick City and County Council. This arose because the first public notices at the site at Foynes port had been vandalised and the company was advised to resubmit to avoid any risk of legal challenge.
But now, Mr Minett claimed, the company has to submit its plans for the plant at the former Koala site for the third time, in order to include a Natura survey as requested by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The company had no issue with supplying the survey, he stressed but he was concerned at the delay in the planning process. “We have lost time,” Mr Minett said, explaining that the company he heads up had hoped to begin work on site later this year and start manufacturing smokeless ovoids or nuggets in late 2015.
“If this gets delayed too much, if other things come out of the woodwork, if we think the process is not proceeding properly, we would be foolish not to consider other sites. We have looked at other sites in Northern Ireland,” he told the LImerick Leader.
CPL had received tremendous support locally, he stressed, and former Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Finance Minister Michael Noonan had attended the launch of the project in Foynes. However, he said: “At the end of the day, we are a commercial entity. We need to be assured now that we are covering all the bases.”
A spokesman for Limerick City and County Council said the council had looked for additional information which included the Natura report. Once the information is received from CPL, a decision can be made within eight weeks.
But Mr Minett also expressed a certain frustration at the lack of progress in implementing the reduction in carbon tax for fuels with a biomass component. This dispensation, he pointed out, was included in the Finance Act last January and involved reductions of up to 50% depending on the level of biomass content.
Industry stakeholders have been working with the Department of the Environment ever since but the matter remains to be finalised. “My issue would be pace. This legislation was in place in January but has not been implemented. Winter is coming. This needs to be driven on now,” Mr Minett said, adding that CPL was committed to passing on the reductions to the consumer.
He also expressed a certain frustration that the Smokeless Ireland, North/South survey had now also been delayed from July to December.
In speaking to the Limerick Leader, Mr Minett was also keen to rebut a number of claims by Bord na Móna in their objection to the CPL planning application and which were reported in the Limerick Leader.
“Bord na Mona said we were going to use a high temperature process to make and bind the ovoids and would need an IPC licence. That is simply wrong. We are going to use a combination of synthetic binders, in very small amounts which are very widely used. We may use molasses but we are going to use a low-temperature process,” Mr Minett said. “The company had been in contact with the Environmental Protection Agency, he added. “The EPA has accepted we do not need a licence.”
He also rejected the claim that the Environmental Impact Statement was incomplete and that the traffic volumes were under-estimated. On the issue of possible water pollution, he pointed out there would be an on-site water treatment plant.
“I think it is very disappointing that a semi-state body is objecting to the development of a plant that is creating jobs,” Mr Minett said. “In my view, their objection is commercially driven.” Despite “the two false starts”, he is still hopeful the end of 2015 deadline in Foynes can be met.