Former Northern Ireland factory to become smokeless fuel manufacturing plant as plans get green light

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The former Maydown Precision Engineering factory building and site in Londonderry is to be transformed into a smokeless fuel manufacturing plant and coal bagging facility, with the creation of 31 jobs.

After four years in the planning process, the massive development was unanimously approved by Derry City & Strabane District's Council's new Planning Committee recently.

Planners had recommended approval after an extensive consultation process, which included addressing objections over potential noise and coal dust impact, concluding that they were satisfied with the plans subject to 19 conditions.

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Speaking at the meeting, the applicants Julie and Andrew Coyle from Andrew Coyle Coal Limited praised the planning officer and team for their diligence, and said they had no problem with the wide range of conditions attached to the granting of permission for their new business premises. They were accompanied by their agent Matt Kennedy from MKA Planning Ltd. and chartered civil engineer Robert Thompson.

Schivo NI (formerly Maydown Precision Engineering) closed in 2017. Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.comSchivo NI (formerly Maydown Precision Engineering) closed in 2017. Photo Lorcan Doherty /
Schivo NI (formerly Maydown Precision Engineering) closed in 2017. Photo Lorcan Doherty /

A decision on the new business at the 5.45 hectare site was previously deferred by the Planning Committee back in January for a site visit, which took place the same month.

The applicants have now secured approval for the 'retention of change of use of existing factory building to provide internalised smokeless fuel plant, bagging of coal products and internal storage and re-use of ancillary buildings'.

The application also involves three external hoppers, lorry and car parking, landscaping and provision of drainage swales and attenuation / soakaway areas, on lands at 11 and 11A Carrakeel Drive, Maydown Industrial Estate.

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The new manufacturing business will be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and will supply to Ireland north and south as well as to Britain.

It will also revive a long tradition at the old Molins, Maydown Prescision Engineering (MPE) and Schivo site, which ceased operating back in 2017 after 50 years of industrial manufacturing onsite.

A planning officer told the meeting on Wednesday that they had consulted with various bodies including Environment Health and the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency, including with reference to objections lodged over the application.

A number of objections related to the potential impact of coal dust on air quality for businesses and workers, and the impact of noise on other businesses and dwellings in the area. There were also objections in relation to potential contamination of waterways due to run off. However planners said they investigation each of these and consulted with statutory bodies who were satisfied with the plans, mitigations and conditions with the operations largely internal and housed in buildings or screened.

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They also said that Environmental Health has recommended a detailed dust management plan, which formed part of the conditions for approval.

Planning officers also said that the development fits as this was an area zoned for large scale industrial use.

Among the conditions are that the applicants must submit an asbestos remediation strategy for approval in writing to the Planning Department.

It has also been stipulated that normal operations 'shall take place between the hours of 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday and the hours of 7am and 2pm on a Saturday and at no time on a Sunday' to control noise and protect residential amenity.

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An agreed dust management plan must also be implemented with immediate effect and must remain operational for the life-time of the development.

Julie Coyle told the committee that 27 jobs will be created and that they wanted to make sure these were decently paid positions. A further four management positions are also being created.