An Taisce’s challenge to planning approval for a €65 million road widening scheme in West Kerry has opened before the Commercial Court.
An Taisce wants the quashing of a decision by An Bórd Pleanála that gave approval for works on parts of the N86 road between Dingle and Tralee. The scheme proposed by Kerry County Council seeks to improve the road from Dingle to Annascaul and from Gortbreagoge to Camp. The case, before Mr Justice Robert Haughton, is expected to run for four days. An Bórd Pleanála had previously refused permission for the scheme but that decision was overturned by the High Court two years ago. The matter was then sent back to the board and it approved the scheme last November. An Taisce claims the road project was not adequately assessed in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. James Devlin, senior counsel for An Taisce, said an environmental impact study should have been carried out on the full project. The 32 kilometre stretch is significant in scale and the area of its location, the Dingle Peninsula, had a high concentration of cultural heritage, he said. The cumulative impact may be significant and small scale impacts must be considered in the context of the overall scheme, he argued. An Taisce claims, when An Bord Pleanala approved the scheme, it had no information on the impact of the project on a 4.2km stretch between Annascaul and Gortbreagoge in terms of habitat loss or on fauna. It’s also claimed the hair pin bends are natural geological features. In his High Court judgment two years ago, overturning the planning appeal board’s earlier ruling refusing permission for the scheme, Mr Justice Peter Charleton cited a failure by the board to consider the needs of cyclists and pedestrians. The scheme included plans for a cycleway on each side of the road as well as a hard margin for maintenance and pedestrian use, the judge noted.