An appeal by a company looking to build a bio-gas plant 800m from the town square in Gort has once again been delayed by An Bord Pleanála.
Three years ago, Sustainable Bio-Energy Limited applied for planning permission for a bio-gas plant on a 25-acre site outside the town boundaries. In January 2020, Galway County Council refused the planning permission, which has since seen an appeal process that has now been drawn out to June 24, 2021.
Local concerns, expressed through the Gort Bio-Gas Concern Group, has allied the community against what they fear, “will force people to choose a different place to live.” Group member Ciaran O’Donnell informed that public meetings held by the group, with attendance in excess of 400 people before COVID-19, shows how galvanised the community are against the threat of the plant.
The smell, high volumes of traffic, noise pollution and the reduction in house prices are all cited as concerns of the community if the proposed plant is to go ahead. “This would be the largest bio-gas plant of its kind on the island. If we look at similar developments, such as one plant developed in Ballybofey in Donegal, which is located 5km outside of the town, we see that schools had to be closed on numerous occasions due to the smell produced. This one in Gort is only 800m from the town square and will see 24-hour transportation of digestate, which is the organic matter produced after the biogas. The town would no longer be an attractive place to live,” Ciaran stated.
He also expressed concern around community development sites which have been a lifesaver throughout the pandemic. One such amenity is the Gort River Walk, which borders the proposed site for the plant. The 3.4km looped river walk has seen volunteers clock up over 364 hours since January 2020 as well as the removal of an illegal dump, a wall of briar and an invasive plant species known as ‘Old Man’s Beard.’ The area, which is prone to systemic flooding has caused great concern amongst the group and Ciaran stated that the plant would upset Gort’s image as a Heritage town.
“We have had no public consultation or communication of any kind with the company. We held our own community meeting on March 10, 2020 and have been doing Zoom meeting since the pandemic began. This has developed great community spirit within the town. We will not go away until the threat goes away. This is just too big a risk,” he stressed.