A Carrigtwohill horse trainer who admitted filling tens of thousands of tonnes of construction rubble into a wildlife lagoon - turning it into a horse-track - faces sentencing on a serious environmental charge at the end of the month.
John Collins, who is aged around 30, of Brown Island, Ballintubrid West, Carrigtwohill, County Cork, pleaded guilty to disposing of waste in a manner likely to cause environmental pollution at that address on June 3 2014. Nicholas Bond, waste enforcement officer seconded by Cork County Council, outlined the background to the case. In January 2014 they received a report that construction and demolition waste in significant quantities was being dumped in a special area of conservation.
“We served a notice requiring all the work to cease. We invited the landowner, John Collins, to hear his side of the story on February 10 2014. He came in with a planning consultant and they said they had agreement with the National Parks and Wildlife to do works strengthening banks.
“The National Parks and Wildlife said they had some agreement for minor bank-strengthening works but that these works far exceeded this agreement. The requirement to cease all activities was still in place,” Mr Bond said.
The witness said that the two-acre lagoon, which flooded with water twice a day and was a special protection area for birds and wildlife, was filled in fully except for a stream of about three metres in width.
Mr Collins told the waste enforcement officer that about 14,000 cubic metres of dry building material had been put into the lagoon. Mr Bond’s estimate was more than twice that – 31,000 cubic metres, equating to 45,000 tonnes of rubble. He said that to remove it all would require filling 1,500 to 2,000 truck-loads.
“We are very anxious that it would stop, that he would stop working on the site… We got no remediation plan (from defendant),” Mr Bond said.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said, “The allegation is that after some initial engagement, that notwithstanding notices to cease, works continued. If that is the way it is a serious allegation.”
Mr Bond said a significant amount of work was done at the lagoon since 2014 and it was now operating as a horse-track.
Defence barrister, Ray Boland, said there was no increase in flooding anywhere as a result of the works, that erosion had been eating into the defendant’s land and said, “He was basically making a lagoon into a stream and providing land which is now used as a horse-track.”
Prosecution barrister, Donal O’Sullivan said the maximum penalty for the offence, to which John Collins pleaded guilty, was €15 million and up to ten years in prison.
Judge Ó Donnabáin said to Mr Boland for the defence, “You are saying it is alright as it is.”
Mr Boland said, “We are saying it is what it is… It would cost literally millions to restore it… His advisors said these were exempted developments and he had permission from Parks and Wildlife… He was advised wrongly.”
Mr Bond replied that Parks and Wildlife told him it was not exempted.
The judge said to the defence barrister, “You say I should just fine him and move on.”
Mr Boland BL replied, “I am, actually.”
The judge said, “You propose to leave it as it is.”
Mr Boland said, “Being straight about it, yes.”
Donal O’Sullivan for the prosecution said, “He knew he was not to do the works and he continued to do the works. There has been no remediation. It is an attempt to say, ‘I have it now and I hold it’.”
Judge Ó Donnabháin put it back until February 27 for further evidence in advance of sentencing.