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Review sought of council panel policy

CLARE County Council has been asked to review its policy concerning who is entitled to submit wastewater treatment plans, following a recent ruling by An Bord Pleanála.

Plans for the development of a new wastewater treatment facility at Scoil Cholmaille, Clonna, Ennistymon involving a septic tank, intermittent peat and polishing filter, were recently refused by the local planning authority. The plans were submitted by a local civil engineer, Michael Duffy, who is not a member of the council’s register of independent qualified agents for wastewater treatment systems.
Although a planning inspector recommended the board refuse permission concerning information on file, this was overruled by the board, who decided the development would be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, subject to two conditions.
It ruled the proposed effluent treatment and disposal system has to be located, constructed and maintained in accordance with the details submitted to the planning authority on January 20 last. Arrangements in relation to the ongoing maintenance of the system have to be submitted and agreed in writing with the planning authority, prior to the start of the development.
Within three months of installation, the applicant has to submit a report from a suitably qualified person with professional indemnity insurance certifying that the effluent treatment system has been installed and commissioned in accordance with the approved details and is working in a satisfactory manner, in accordance with standards set out in the EPA document.
Environment SPC chairman, Councillor Joe Arkins said the council now needs to review its policy concerning wastewater treatment facilities and believes this ruling calls into question the criteria and eligibility of people who can submit a system the council will accept.
Councillor Arkins explained that a scenario could arise whereby a qualified person at consultant level, who might give lectures to people on a wastewater treatment course, is not entitled to submit a wastewater treatment plan because he is not a member of the panel.
“The whole system of the appointment to the panel needs to be reviewed by the council,” he said.
He was supported by Councillor Johnny Flynn, who urged the council to take this ruling into account by expanding the criteria for panel membership to include those with a relevant engineering qualification.
Councillor Flynn, who is a civil engineer, pointed out an enlarged panel would ensure the consumer is given a wider choice and availability of qualified engineers.
In her planning report, inspector Louise Kiernan stated she was satisfied the site suitability tests were carried out by a qualified person with relevant experience. She pointed out the fact the applicant was not on the panel as a valid reason for refusal in this case.
“It is submitted that three internal reports from the Environment Section and two reports by the planner were not available on the council internet file six days after the decision to refuse. The planning authority has offered no particular comment on this specific matter. Whether the documents were available or not, I don’t consider this is a reason for invalidation of the subject appeal,” she said.
She claimed it hadn’t clearly been demonstrated in this case that the application met with the performance requirements set out in the EPA Code of Practice for Wastewater Treatment facilities.
Clare County Council said it has not recently reviewed its policy in relation to the persons who can submit site suitability assessments in planning applications. “More recently, a number of persons presented for interview for inclusion on the panel for wastewater treatment site suitability assessments. The process whereby individuals can apply to be on the panel is an ongoing process and interviews are held in response to requests for inclusion on the panel.
“In relation to planning applications, all applications are determined in accordance with the provisions of the County Development Plan, the Local Area Plan, if applicable, the relevant codes of practice and ministerial guidelines,” a council spokesperson responded.


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