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*Roche. Photograph: Martin Connolly

Formal approval has been issued for the decommissioning of Roche’s site in Clarecastle.

A formal final grant of planning permission for work to commence on the phased demolition of all existing buildings, structures and infrastructure, on, in, over and under the site of its existing Roche pharmaceutical plant at Clarehill in Clarecastle was granted in recent days.

Built by the Syntex Corporation in 1974, the site was acquired by Roche Group in 1994. In November 2015, the company announced its plans to exit the site with production ceasing in November 2019. Pharmaceutical operations ceased at the facility on 27th March 2020.

Decommissioning will comprise two activities: demolition and remediation. This work will be controlled and governed by the conditions set out in the planning approval received from Clare County Council and a new Industrial Emissions Licence (IEL) from the EPA.

An application fee of €38,000 which is the maximum amount, was paid by the developers who say that up to 160 persons will be employed during the course of the decommissioning work at peak periods. Contributions which total over €1m have to be paid to the local authority by Roche for use of public infrastructure.

A timeline from June 2021 until May 2028 has been listed for the works on the 88 acre site. Daily water usage is expected to be 35m3 per day with a peak of 9m3 per hour. Demolition and remediation will be undertaken from mid-2021 to mid-2024. Groundwater remediation and monitoring will take a further four to five years subject to agreement with the EPA. The timeline may be impacted by COVID-19.

Disposing of the waste will involve a peak of 18 heavy goods vehicles (HGV) an hour travelling from junction 11 of the M18 onto the R458, through Patrick St and Clarehill. All works on the site are to take place between 7am and 7pm from Monday to Friday inclusive and between 8am and 2pm on Saturday. Roche estimate that there will be a total of 63,000 HGV movements in Clarecastle throughout the lifetime of the project.

Explaining their reason to decommission, a spokesperson for Roche stated their belief that “existing landfills containing hazardous wastes with the potential to impact the environment should be addressed proactively, even if this entails applying solutions exceeding the individual country’s legal framework. It was therefore deemed necessary to demolish buildings on-site that have no future use and excavate and remove any contaminated soil and material on-site”.

Managing Director of Roche Ireland, Gerry Cahill described the outcome as “very positive”. He said the “strategic project” will being benefits to Clarecastle and Co Clare with regular updates to be furnished to the community as the project progresses.

Roche are confident that they will deliver a remediated brownfield site with the potential for employment creation into the future.

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