Jeremy Irons and David Puttnam add voices to campaign against proposed plant that locals say clashes with area’s ‘clean living’ ethos.
Residents in Skibbereen, Co Cork are opposing plans for a thermoplastic factory they claim will clash with the “clean living” ethos of the area, which is popular with holidaymakers and home to “blow-ins” such as film director David Puttnam and actor Jeremy Irons.
Last year Cork county council granted permission for Daly Products, an Irish branch of American company RTP, to build a plastic compounds production facility on Baltimore Road, Skibbereen, despite objections by locals.
A decision is now awaited from An Bord Pleanala on the project following two separate appeals by local residents Brendan McCarthy and Dorothy Swanton. Eleven other residents contributed to the appeal under McCarthy’s name.
An Bord Pleanala’s decision was due to be released last month but has been delayed. The board said the case is now in its “closing stages”.
McCarthy, who lives 30 metres away from the designated site and has lived in the Cork town for more than a decade, says he is one of many residents opposed to the development. “This is going to be a 24/7 operation so it’s going to be having an impact on us all day, every day,” he said. “We pride ourselves on being environmentally friendly. There is so much negative press around plastics and the effects of it on the environment and on the oceans.”
McCarthy said he fears that plastic pellets will enter local rivers. “There are just so many negatives to building this plastics factory here,” he said. “They haven’t even fully informed us what chemicals will be used.”
Skibbereen residents say they are also concerned that the project will affect tourism, since visitors are primarily attracted to West Cork because of its unspoilt environment.
Swanton, who also lives near the site, submitted a separate appeal on behalf of her 19-year-old autistic son whose life she said would be negatively impacted affected if the project goes ahead.
A petition against the development has been signed by more than 4,000 people in the past five months. Puttnam and Irons, who both live locally, have publicly lent their support to the campaign.
Puttnam told The Southern Star newspaper in February that he was concerned by the lack of an environmental impact study. “I think to deal with a relatively environmentally sensitive area like this without an environmental impact study is positively a 1950s way of proceeding — it certainly isn’t a 2020s way of proceeding,” he said. “I am not an expert about the EU Emissions Directive, but I think there is a reasonable expectation that the council would do everything it needs to do to protect local citizens.”
He also claimed that the prevailing wind would blow any emissions towards local schools.
The factory is set to be 4,800 sq m, just under the required size for an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Traffic Impact Assessment. The land is owned by the Industrial Development Authority and was rezoned in 2016 for “light industrial work”, local councillors point out.
Those behind the project say the factory will provide about 40 jobs, with this number increasing in the future.
Danny Miles, the European managing director of RTP, welcomed Cork county council’s decision but said he would not comment further until An Bord Pleanala has adjudicated on the appeal.
Joe Carroll, a local Fianna Fail councillor, said the factory would bring jobs and investment to Skibbereen and that inaccurate information was influencing residents’ opinions. “There is a lot of misinformation about how the factory will affect the environment and lots of people are alarmed,” he said.
“The council would never support a factory that would hurt the environment. It complies with all our regulations. There will be nothing bad coming out of it. The Environmental Protection Agency said it doesn’t even come onto their radar.