Proper legislation is required if small quarry operations are to have a shot at survival, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
The Roscommon-Galway representative was reacting to the RTÉ Investigates programme: ‘Quarries, Between A Rock And A Hard Place’.
Speaking in the aftermath of the programme, he said: “While some of the footage shown in the programme was totally unacceptable, there are a large number of quarries that do not currently have planning which are making an honest effort to regularise their operations.
“A lot of quarries are in limbo land at the moment due to a lack of clear legislation. A number of years ago, a new requirement was introduced where all quarries had to be registered.
“In order to regularise these quarries, it was advised that they then had to apply for substitute consent. But – it is my understanding that – due to a three-year gap in legislation being introduced, councils couldn’t deal with these quarries and fees couldn’t be collected because planning hadn’t been secured.
“Even though a lot of quarries were engaging in an effort to secure planning, they were unable to due to difficulties surrounding the legislation.”
Continuing, the independent TD underlined the importance of having a network of quarries around the country.
“If we want build roads and houses, we will need a good network of quarries right around the country. We need to make sure that there is proper legislation in place that isn’t suffocated by red tape.
“No one condones some of the activities that were aired on RTE Investigate’s programme, but there were some assertions made in relation quarries that weren’t factually correct.
“It was stated that one particular operator was still actively quarrying in a site where they were ordered to stop, when in fact stone was just being brought in from another location to be crushed and stockpiled at the site.”
Avoiding a monopoly
Fitzmaurice noted that is important for proper legislation to be introduced in order to protect smaller quarry operations from being consumed by the larger outfits.
“If we don’t have proper legislation to give a fair chance to smaller quarries, we will be heading towards a monopoly in the industry with little or no competition.
“As it stands, the cost of regularising and securing planning for a quarry are astronomical – which is totally unviable for a small company.
“Within a few months, there could be parts of the country where you would have to travel 60 miles or father to reach an actively operating quarry – which isn’t ideal when you think of climate change and the impact transporting materials further and further afield will have on the atmosphere.
“When it comes to some of the objections that are being lodged against the smaller quarries, it appears as if there may be some vested interests at play.
“If this continues, we could be left in a situation where there are only a handful of quarries operating across the country – which would cause prices to rocket.
“It is also disappointing to note that some of the objections against these smaller quarries are being lodged by people who live no where near the site.
“But what is most worrying is the fact that environmental lobby groups have actively contacted clients of some quarries to discourage them from purchasing materials from their operation.
“Clear and proper legislation needs to be brought in as soon as possible, to give quarry operations which are making an honest effort to comply with regulations the opportunity to secure planning,” he concluded.
Michael Fitzmaurice – 0861914565