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Locals say ‘no’ to Mannok quarrying plan

A sign erected on a pole in the local area.

Posted on June 3, 2024

A community group is ramping up its opposition to Mannok Cement Ltd’s plans to develop a new sand and gravel pit in west Cavan. Some locals say, if granted, it will not only threaten an ancient historical site, but also risk the loss of valuable nearby bogs and habitat.

Members of ‘Ballyheady – Say NO to Quarry – Save Nature’ held a public meeting earlier this month to discuss their next steps.

Mannok has submitted an environmental report and a Natura Impact Statement (NIS) to council planners as part of ‘Further Information’ requested by the local authority. It is open to the local lobby group to make a further submission based on the latest information supplied up until June 5.

Just over a year ago, on March 21, Mannok lodged plans for a new quarrying operation on lands to the west of the L1045 Killeshandra Road, in the townlands of Clontygrigny and Callaghs, in Ballyconnell.

The proposal allows an open cast quarry to extract minerals (sand and gravel) over an area of 19.3ha (more than 36 football fields) to a final depth of up to 54 metres (177 ft) above sea level for a period of up to 20 years.

The development includes the loading and transportation of materials from the site; the construction of a new site entrance and wheel wash, internal haul roads and earthen screening bunds; the restoration of the site to biodiversity and agricultural uses; and all ancillary works related to same.

Proposed measures to address environmental concerns include realigning a drainage ditch, the installation of dams, and measures to address the impact on ground and surface water systems and the potential impact to the watertable.

In response to local concerns, a spokesperson for Mannok told the Celt this week: “The aim of the development is to continue to support sustainable local jobs and regional economic prosperity. Mannok is engaging with the planning approval process to ensure the highest environmental and biodiversity protection standards are applied in a project that is both necessary and beneficial to the region.”

Paddy Gilroy is from the townland of Ballyheady. The proposed development site is just across the river from where he resides.

“That’s Fartrin Cross down there,” he says pointing in the direction of the quiet hum of traffic a short distance away. “This area we would have known growing up as Huggins’, the man is long dead, and the land was bought years ago by the McCartin brothers.”

John McCartin, a non-executive director at Mannok, is the listed owner of the property, according to the planning files submitted by the company.

“We’re very concerned about the hydrology of the area,” continues Mr Gilroy.

Paddy Gilroy is a small farmer and a member of the West Cavan Bog Association. He is pictured here with the proposed quarrying area behind him.

Some locals are concerned too about the potential damage a development of such scale might have on local biodiversity, with several red-listed species such as the Snipe and Meadow Pipit, Large Heath Butterfly, Dark Tussock Moth and the Irish Damselfly all recorded in neighbouring townlands.

The area where Mannok plans to quarry is surrounded by “heathland”, according to Mr Gilroy, a small farmer and member of the West Cavan Bogs Association.

He believes the Mannok planning application is “deficient” across a range of areas, especially in how the company proposes to mitigate its impact on the local area.

“There are cairn stones over there, about 5,000 years old, that people come from all over Ireland to see; and three bogs, one colloquially called the flow bog, very precious. We had a group of people up from Abbeyleix back around 2017 who were astonished, and admitted it was much better as a functioning bog because of the wealth of Sphagnum Moss growing on it. Our bog, that has got no designation.

“The two others are at Fartrin North and Fartrin South, at Aaghdreenagh, about 70 acres of bog in pristine condition. There’s no other place like it, in either Cavan or Monaghan, and now it’s going to be destroyed by this quarry if it gets the go-ahead,” contended Mr Gilroy.

What riles the ‘Say NO to Quarry’ group is that, less than 24 hours after they put up signs appealing for public support, one was torn down and destroyed.

To date almost 30 submissions have been received by the council in respect of Mannok’s quarry proposal, many of them outright objections. They include submissions in the names of Nuala Madigan of Irish Peatland Conservation Co, local ecologist Heather Bothwell, and Peter Sweetman of Wild Ireland Defence CLG.

Some of the local submissions also voice concern over what might happen to wells in the area.

An Taisce, and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, have also made representations on the file, as is the norm with such planning applications.

At their short meeting at nearby Sheehan’s pub, several speakers present discussed the impact of living close to existing quarrying operations.

“You can see waves of dust carry down the mountain on a windy day,” claimed one woman who said she already lives close to a Mannok quarrying operation. She said that issues with dust had been “happening for years”.

Others present were dismissive of Mannok’s proposed plans to measure noise from the site, which is to capped at around 55 decibels. “When will it be tested? A Sunday maybe,” suggested one.

Another speaker at Sheehan’s described the latest environmental report submitted by Mannok, and their recent highly publicised environmental plans, as “greenwashing”.

“It’s a dirty job, a dirty industry. Loud and dirty and dusty,” said the man to the small gathering. He also suggested getting in contact with Malcom Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform on the issue.

Already the group has sent out letters, outlining their objections, to a range of stakeholders from the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries at the European Commission, Virginijus Sinkevicius; Minister for Environment, Eamon Ryan; Waterways Ireland, as well as the Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Geopark.

“What was it? Snails or moss that held up the bridge on the [Belturbet] bypass?” asked another man.

“The cairn stones are important to us but, if that quarry is opened up, it’ll be lost.”

It was brought to the attention of the meeting also that the Cavan Heritage Office had recently committed to funding further testing at Fartrin bog, where experts believe they have found the remains of a near 10,000 year-old roadway.

Dr Ben Geary (UCC) and Cathy Moore (Archaeology and Built Heritage) have already carried out two digs in the era, and using rods, believe they have connected with an ancient trackway.

Their plan is to return to the site and take samples before having them carbon dated.

“If it exists, there are no other examples like it in this landscape,” explained an excited Eimear Crowe.

“It will set a precedent in this Drumlin landscape. It really is quite unique, they believe. Of European significance even. This whole area is full of archaeology. Who knows what’s beneath that bog?”


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