Oral hearing on proposed South Kerry Greenway – Daily updates

The oral hearing into the proposed South Kerry Greenway began in Tralee on Tuesday, 8th October, 2019. Kerry County Council decided to acquire the lands needed by compulsory purchase order, following failure to secure agreement over the years with some landowners along the 32-kilometre route from Glenbeigh to Renard. Over 100 people attended the opening day of the oral hearing. This is a comprehensive daily update on what’s happened so far.

Click here to skip to Week Four

Week One – Submissions and Observations on Planning Application begin here

 – Tuesday, October 8th, 2019 – 

Here is a timeline of the project.

The process for the greenway commenced in earnest in 2011, when the South Kerry Development Partnership compiled a feasibility report into a greenway in the Iveragh Peninsula.

In 2014, grants were announced to progress the Glenbeigh-Cahersiveen GW (greenway) and also the Cahersiveen-Renard GW. In April of that year, it was envisaged to acquire lands needed by agreement.

It must be noted that from April 2014, there were ongoing individual landowner meetings taking place – according to KCC (Kerry County Council).

In 2015, KCC elected members voted to progress the scheme by CPO (compulsory purchase order) by 25 votes to 8.

Over the following years, a number of public consultations took place in relation to the preferred route – it culminated with the preferred route being displayed by KCC in June 2018.

The 31.9km proposed greenway is planned to run from Renard to Faha, a townland east of Glenbeigh. It’s a two-way shared facility for pedestrians and cyclists in a rural environment.

Just over half of the greenway route is on the old railway line (56% – nearly 18km), while 2.5km is on-road when it’s running through Cahersiveen.

Kerry County Council claims the greenway could handle more than 1,500 users per day and could be used for up to 15 hours per day in summer time.

The greenway comprises 222 holdings, 160 of which are agricultural holdings, with 197 landowners affected in total.

The compulsory purchase order has been the major issue which has arisen in recent years from the process. How much land is needed for the proposed greenway?

It was revealed that the council needs to acquire over 48 hectares – or 115 acres – permanently for the greenway through CPO.

17 hectares are already in council ownership.

There are 18 public roads and approximately 32 private and direct accesses crossed by the greenway from Glenbeigh to Renard.

What were the major talking points on the first day (Tuesday, 8th October)?

Opening the oral hearing, An Bord Pleanála inspector Karla McBride said over 120 submissions were received on the proposed greenway, 68 on the compulsory purchase order and 13 in relation to publications of further information.

However, a number of objections to the CPO have been withdrawn. As of Wednesday morning, we believe there are 28 remaining.

She said the agenda for this week will focus on the greenway application, while the CPO will be discussed next week.

The inspector said that, following the oral hearing, she’ll make one of three recommendations: approve the CPO, approve it with modifications, or refuse it.

There was a reference made to how much money landowners could be paid per annum if the proposed scheme goes ahead. While there were no responses allowed at this stage, what was said by Kerry County Council in relation to the financial benefits for landowners?

Senior Executive Engineer with Kerry County Council – and Project Manager for the scheme – Conor Culloo presented the majority of the local authority’s information yesterday (Tuesday, 8th).

He spoke of the economic and social need for the greenway, saying Census data shows there are fewer younger people and more older people along the route relative to the rest of the county.

His report says all affected landowners will receive an annual minimum payment of €300, in addition to €2/m for the length of greenway that passes through the landowners’ holdings; it is considered this payment will exceed potential agricultural earnings from the land used for this project.

Agronomist Diarmuid O’Sullivan, who conducted surveys with 29 agricultural landowners, also said the maintenance payment will more than compensate for these losses.

However, he didn’t examine individual farmer’s current incomes when coming to that conclusion—so I expect that point to be discussed further in the days ahead.

A Kerry County Council report said the greenway could be expected to attract an estimated ¼ of a million users per year, with 44,000 in August alone.

Another feature of the proposed South Kerry Greenway is the perceived lack of consultation between Kerry County Council and landowners. Anna-Meria Costelloe, Assistant Planner with Kerry County Council, had compiled a report on the public consultation process. What did this report say?

She said An Bord Pleanála received over 120 submissions relating to the planning application and 70 for the CPO during a statutory consultation process.

Ms Costelloe said there were 20 consultation days held over the past number of years and that a liaison officer had been assigned to the project.

She added that public consultation and engagement have been central to the development of the scheme, and that there were four phases of non-statutory public consultation.

I expect this topic will be expanded on over the coming days, both by Kerry County Council and those who make observations.

While yesterday’s opening addresses by Kerry County Council were, for the most part, not allowed to be commented upon, a minor issue in relation to the publication and presentation of information arose.

An environmental campaigner named Peter Sweetman was in attendance yesterday. He queried a number of the council reports on the basis that he didn’t have the material. A number of times, barrister for Kerry County Council Esmond Keane gave assurances that all material would be provided ASAP or put on the Kerry County Council website. Mr Sweetman went as far as to say it was a deliberate attempt by Kerry County Council to obstruct the public getting information about the proposed project.

At one point, a solicitor for a number of parties also queried why their clients hadn’t received the information being discussed. Mr Keane said the material was sent to the solicitor’s clients – when asked when did this happen, he said yesterday. That response received a number of cheers from those present.

Copies of the information were due to be made available by the end of the first day, either in hard or soft copy.

What’s expected during the second day (Wednesday, October 9th) of the oral hearing?

It’s expected that the prescribed bodies – such as the EPA – will give their submissions, if any. This will be followed by a list of those who want to speak. This includes local community groups, public representatives and national cycling bodies, among others.

It was said yesterday that a number of people have withdrawn their objections, so this will lessen the number of people who want to speak at the oral hearing.

The oral hearing is expected to take eight days in total.

 – Wednesday, 9th October, 2019 – 

A lot happened during the second day of An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into the South Kerry Greenway, including the mention of possible legal action, the local authority denying it threatened landowners with a CPO five years ago and a recommendation to paint rocks with yogurt.  

The oral hearing has arisen following a failure between Kerry County Council and some landowners to come to an agreement over land acquisition. 

The proposed greenway comprises 222 holdings, 160 of which are agricultural holdings, with 197 landowners affected in total, between Glenbeigh and Renard.  

An observer at the oral hearing said he could have no choice but take the issue to court – here are the details.

This issue arose when An Bord Pleanala inspector Karla McBride suggested, in order speed up the process, to summarise the letters observers received.

These letters are the responses that Kerry County Council sent back to those who submitted their concerns to the local authority.

Barrister Michael O’Donnell, who wouldn’t reveal the identities of his clients, was against this; he said there was already a lack of trust between the council and landowners and he was against the local authority having the chance to summarise the responses his clients received.

Environmental campaigner Peter Sweetman took issue with what he believes is a lack of information; he said some documents pertaining to the scheme were not provided.

He said any work carried out on any part of the scheme is relevant and, if the documents are not provided, he’ll have no choice but to take the issue to court.

In response, barrister for Kerry County Council Esmond Keane said some documents were not relevant as parts of the scheme had changed.

This claimed lack of information has been an ongoing issue over the first two days of the hearing.

A recommendation was made to paint rocks with yogurt yesterday in an effort to protect the Kerry slug. How did that come about? 

The unusual plan came to light when An Bord Pleanála ecologist Dr Maeve Flynn sought further information on measures to protect the Kerry slug, in the event of the animal having to be moved during construction.

Pat Ryan of Malachy Walsh and Partners said when the Environmental Impact Assessment Report was compiled, it was recommended to fully paint sandstone rocks with yogurt in order to encourage early colonisation in new areas with moss and lichen, two ingredients in a slug’s diet.

Dr Flynn asked if the plan to paint rocks fully with yogurt was a novel idea or something the National Parks and Wildlife Service suggested; Mr Ryan said a leading ecologist recommended it.

He added that the current plan would require 50% of rocks to be painted with yogurt, with a three-year programme of monitoring to take place.

Out of interest, were there many Kerry slugs recorded in the areas in recent years?

The environmental report said four surveys of the Kerry slug population were conducted from 2014-2018: in the first year, seven Kerry slugs were found at Mountain Stage and, while other surveys recorded fewer slugs, the existence of favourable habitats were noted.

A big issue among some landowners has been the use of a CPO by Kerry County Council. I understand they denied claims they threatened landowners with the mechanism in 2014?

Senior Executive Engineer with Kerry County Council – and Project Manager for the scheme – Conor Culloo read the replies given to relevant parties.

In a reply to Denis O’Connor and Carmeil Ní Mhorain, the local authority said it did not state in October 2014 that if landowners did not cooperate with the proposals, the lands would be secured through a CPO.

A year later, in a written response to the Greenway Information Group in December 2016, the council stated that it was aware that using the CPO process was a concern among landowners.

The first landowner to speak at the oral hearing was Karen McDonnell from Lisbane, just outside of Cahersiveen. Her family have farmland along the proposed route. Can you summarise a few of her concerns?

(Kerry County Council was not allowed to respond to these claims at this time) Ms McDonnel claims the council has done its best to divide and conquer, while they’re building a roadway and calling it a greenway. She says there was a blatant disregard for the rights of the private landowners and farmers, and she believes this was intentional on behalf of local government. Also, she told the hearing it’s her belief it was intentional to market this route before agreement had been reached with landowners to gather the support of wider communities and businesses – only then leave the media to vilify the farmer if there was a suggestion of disagreement. Finally, Ms McDonnell says Kerry County Council should be sent back to the drawing board and given specific guidelines from this hearing on how to deliver their roadway for the betterment of the community first and then tourism.

It has to be noted that Kerry County Council was not given the chance to respond to these claims at this point. Who else spoke at the oral hearing yesterday?

Aoibheann Lamb, representing Heritage Iveragh, spoke positively about the development. The voluntary group, which was formed about 20 years ago, says there are 120 sites of archaeological interest along the proposed route.

Three local representatives also spoke. They were Fianna Fáil councillors Norma Moriarty and Michael Cahill, along with Fine Gael councillor Patrick Connor-Scarteen.

They are all in favour of the greenway.

Eamonn Hickson spoke with all three councillors briefly after the hearing. He first asked Councillor Norma Moriarty about something she said during the hearing – she believes future generations will not forgive us if the greenway doesn’t go ahead.

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Fianna Fáil Councillor Norma Moriarty says there are major issues with depopulation in the area. Here is a summary of her submission.

There are 11 primary schools in the area. Of these, the total junior infants over a number of years have fallen to only 56 in 2017. Those are the children starting primary school. If we don’t have future generations, we don’t have a way of life. We need to have young people to have a vibrant future. There are issues and I have sympathy for those on the route who have concerns.
The people opposed to this are those keeping GAA clubs and communities together and we want to keep those communities intact after it ends. A lot of work is done in tourism and also in education. We’ve always had a highly-educated population, but we’ve struggled to retain those people.
We have plans and measures, including the creation of the Iveragh Task Force, to combat the decline in population. We need to come together and not forego this opportunity. We need to stem the tide of depopulation. We know it works – it works in Waterford and it works in Mayo.
What we have in regard to scenery is what the world wants to see.
Finally, future generations will not forgive us if we forego this opportunity.

Summary of Fine Gael councillor Patrick Connor-Scarteen’s comments

Irish people have a hunger for land. We struggled long enough to own our land. John B. Keane even wrote a blockbuster on the topic. I’ve seen the best of neighbours fall out over small sections of land.
However, when dealing with 222 holdings and 197 landowners, CPO is the only option. In relation to the greenway, some don’t want to hear reasons or compromise. The CPO structure is what we’ve to work with and it’s wrong to say authorities can deviate from it.
I believe KCC has been helpful and accommodating. I believe it went above and beyond when trying to accommodate land owners. It’s good to see that a large number of people have withdrawn their objections.
I agreed with the need for the CPO when it came before the council. This is why it was agreed by the majority of the councillors.
The population of Kerry has grown in recent years, but Cahersiveen’s has fallen to 1,041. While there’s a great community in South Kerry, some parts need assistance.
The greenway, along with digital hubs, will help the areas. The government is pumping money into rural areas.
Some people don’t want change. However, change can be helpful. A greenway would not only attract ¼ million, it would benefit the health of people across the county.
It would be the biggest tourism project ever in Kerry and it would be an economic lifeline.

Summary of Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Cahill’s comments

I have been a supporter from day one. I’m the only public representative who lives in a parish which the greenway goes through. It affects many of my friends.
I agree with colleagues that it’s the biggest project in our time. I believe the greenway will be there for ever, unlike ourselves. I’m a councillor for 30 years and we’re lucky to have a friend who’s successful in London and he’s given employment to thousands; I think this project will help to curb to flow of people outwards.
When the greenway was advertised, what was sought was a world class greenway – we can have that. I believe the area needs an injection.

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Those were councillors Norma Moriarty, Michael Cahill and Patrick Connor-Scarteen. What’s the general mood so far at the oral hearing?

It’s early days and the majority of the information put forward so far has not been open to argument just yet. However, it must be said, the public gallery has been very respectful to all observers and speakers so far, regardless of the speakers’ views on the proposed project.

In relation to the facilities and documentation available, there have been a number of complaints. As mentioned earlier, a few parties have repeatedly called for more copies – both soft and hard copies – of information relating to the projects. This seems to be rectified by the end of Wednesday evening.

From a media point of view, the facilities are not ideal. An Bord Pleanála grossly underestimated the media interest in this case. For example, when the oral hearing started on Tuesday, the only faciltiy provided for media was a small table to seat two people: there were six media outlets there on Tuesday.

Also, the media are seated about 50 feet from the only projector in the room, with most of the audience even further away.

Finally, what’s due to happen today (Thursday, 10th)?

More observations on the planning application are due to be heard today, including from local landowners and national cycling bodies. It’s expected that we’ll hear from the IFA today.

Submissions on the CPO will be heard next week.

 – Thursday, 10th October, 2019 – 

On Thursday, a claim was made that the Iveragh Peninsula is in crisis. 

That’s according to Jack Fitzpatrick, who was speaking during day three of An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into the proposed South Kerry Greenway.

He was one of a number of contributors who made submissions at the hearing.

Mr Fitzpatrick, acting on behalf of the New Market Street East End Business Owners Group, said the greenway could provide safe passage for thousands of people to visit towns and villages throughout the peninsula.

He asked the inspector to consider what life would be like for people in South Kerry if they lose any more services or amenities.

The business owner believes the peninsula is in crisis, mostly due to population decline.

Michael Burke of Galway Cycling Solutions claimed the current greenway route only serves tourism, while neglecting the local communities.

He said that, between a town and village on the route, the greenway passes a shop, restaurant and two pubs; he asked what happens to the people living there all year round who want to cycle to school, the shop or to check animals.

Did the Irish Farmers’ Association outline its objection to the proposed South Kerry Greenway during Thursday’s session?

The IFA previously protested against the development of the greenway, due to having objections to the use of a compulsory purchase order.

The Chair of Kerry IFA Pat O’Driscoll spoke during the third day of An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into the proposed development, which is taking place in the Manor West Hotel in Tralee.

Pat O’Driscoll says he finds it hard to be in the position he’s in; he says he’s uniquely aware of the geography of the area and the impact the greenway could have on the area.

He believes if half the efforts which were put into the CPO process were put into negotiations with landowners, then the greenway would have been built by now.

The Valentia farmer claims the IFA were proactive and positive; however, instead of CPO being the last resort, it was the first resort.

He adds it’s a disgrace that seven years have been wasted in the development of the greenway.

Elsewhere, Thomas Cooney, the National Chairman of the IFA’s Environment & Rural Affairs Committee, says the organisation supports the development of recreational routes.

However, he says it’s with regret that the IFA is objecting to the proposed development due to the actions of Kerry County Council.

Mr Cooney says the IFA is objecting on four grounds: it believes KCC didn’t follow all legal requirements; the proposal contravenes assurances given that a CPO wouldn’t be used; the development contravenes policy on the future planning of greenways; and the environmental reports are incomplete.

On Thursday evening, an application was made to adjourn the oral hearing. What can you tell us?

Can you give us some background into the application for adjournment?

Kerry County Council decided to acquire the 222 parcels of land needed for the scheme through CPO, following a failure to agree terms with all 197 landowners along the route.

Barrister Michael O’Donnell said he represents 27 landowners and families who are affected by the CPO and the scheme as proposed. His objection centred on the errata document; this is a list of corrections provided after a work has been printed.

More on this in a moment.

Mr O’Donnell told An Bord Pleanála inspector Karla McBride there’s a duty that the hearing is conducted in manner which is not prejudicial to parties, according to European Law. He says it also concerns constitutional law, due to the proposed CPO threatening to extinguish landowners’ land rights.

He said he and his clients did not anticipate the events which occurred on the first day: he claimed they received 260 pages of new documentation on Tuesday, followed by a further 100 in the errata document on Wednesday, some of it given with less than a day to digest it.

The barrister said his clients are trying to engage in a process where there is no equality in arms – he said KCC has a team of people at the hearing and then they present this amount of material. He believes it’s only reasonable and appropriate that he and his clients be afforded more time.

So, to put more plainly, the barrister was seeking an adjournment on the basis that his clients received too large an amount of information during the oral hearing and that this information has altered how he and his clients would construct their submission.

He said the council had all this information to hand prior to the oral hearing commencing, and he mentioned a revised drawing which was dated 16th September – which is three weeks before the hearing began.

Kerry County Council spoke against adjourning the oral hearing.

I understand one such point of change was in relation to a proposed coastal protection measure which was not previously in a Special Area of Conservation, but was after changes were made.  

Yes, this is in relation to rock revetments, which are structures used to protect the coast from being eroded by the sea.

Mr O’Donnell said the structure will, after revisions in the errata, will now encroach into a SAC.

He claimed his clients accept this is a material change and he’s employed an environmental consultant who’s now required to prepare a new submission.

Senior Counsel for Kerry County Council Esmond Keane said the group’s experts should be able to see the changes and they should not cause any significant changes to reports. He said they relate to very small areas where coastal protection works going into a SAC are limited and measures will be provided to ensure no impact.

He also said the number of changes in the errata document constitute a relatively small number of actual errors.

That wasn’t the opinion of environmental campaigner, Peter Sweetman. He also spoke at this stage. What did he say?

Mr Sweetman said he’s done more oral hearings than anyone in ABP and that the errata document provided by KCC is the largest one he’s ever seen.

He said that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report should be a readable document – and he claimed it is not currently readable due to the multitude of changes.

Kerry County Council again rejected this.

Elsewhere, a former Kerry minister spoke at the hearing yesterday. Who was it and what did they say? 

Former Fianna Fáil TD and Kerry minister John O’Donoghue gave a submission shortly before lunchtime yesterday. It came as a surprise to the media bench as his name was not on a list of observers which was circulated prior to the hearing.

He spoke about the last time the train departed South Kerry in 1960.

Mr O’Donoghue said the train didn’t just take people, but it took the dreams and aspirations of people and their descendants with them.

The former minister said promises were made at the time that improvements would be made to transport and infrastructure in the area.

We sought a copy of his speech afterwards, however, An Bord Pleanála was unable to source one at the time.

The Irish Farmers’ Association outlined its objection to the proposed South Kerry Greenway . We remember the IFA previously protested against the development of the greenway, due to having objections to the use of a compulsory purchase order. What was said?

Thomas Cooney, the National Chairman of the IFA’s Environment & Rural Affairs Committee, said the organisation supports the development of recreational routes.

However, he said it’s with regret that the IFA is objecting to the proposed development due to the actions of Kerry County Council.

Mr Cooney said the IFA is objecting on four grounds: it believes KCC didn’t follow all legal requirements; the proposal contravenes assurances given that a CPO wouldn’t be used; the development contravenes policy on the future planning of greenways; and the environmental reports are incomplete.

While the discussion on the more controversial aspect of the greenway – the CPO – is due to be held next week, has the attendance at the oral hearing increased over the past few days?

No, the attendance has lessened if anything. There were around 100 members of the public present on day one, while there was an estimated 40 members of the public in attendance yesterday.

Indeed, we on the media bench counted approximately 20 people between An Bord Pleanála and Kerry County Council alone yesterday.

Finally, what’s expected to happen this morning (Friday)? 

An Bord Pleanála inspector Karla McBride is due to decide on Mr O’Donnell’s application to adjourn.

While no timeline has been put forward, if adjourned according to the barrister’s application, it’ll have to be a minimum of 30 days.

One of the options put forward yesterday is that the parties, apart from Mr O’Donnell’s clients, put forward their submissions as planned.

Alternatively, the inspector may decide to grant or refuse Mr O’Donnell’s submission.

A decision is due around 10am.

– Friday, 11th October, 2019 – 

What happened in relation to the application for an adjournment?

The application to adjourn the oral hearing into the proposed South Kerry Greenway has been refused.

Barrister Michael O’Donnell claimed that Kerry County Council provided new or corrected information during the first and second days of the hearing, when such information could have been forwarded prior to the hearing commencing.

An Bord Pleanála inspector Karla McBride refused the application, saying the board will decide on using the new information provided.

However, a number of times since the hearing began this morning, Mr O’Donnell took issue with the inspector’s decision and reasons for refusing his application.

Inspector Karla McBride stated the oral hearing forms part of an ongoing information-gathering process and gives the public a chance to take part.

She said the board will ultimately decide to accept or not accept new information, including an errata document; the inspector added she will not facilitate any further discussion on the topic.

However, Mr O’Donnell took issue with this: He said he cannot engage in a hearing which is conducted in such a manner and he told the inspector she’s required to act properly and fairly.

The inspector reiterated that she’s not granting the adjournment and she’d prefer not to have an argument about it.

A party at the oral hearing also described the events this morning as tense.

The oral hearing continues, however, it adds to the list of issues which have arisen this week, including: a threat of a judicial review; a threat to take alleged defamatory matters to another arena; claims there are significant changes to environmental reports; and a repeated claim that Kerry County Council did not provide all the information in a timely manner.

So, what happened after this?

After the application to adjourn was refused (and the reaction it caused lessened), a number of parties gave submissions or were part of the cross-questioning process.

Cahersiveen businessowner Deidre Garvey told the hearing the greenway issue is nuanced as all involved are part of the same community.

She added, while there are benefits to be gained from the greenway, she doesn’t want to gain from something which divides the community.

Kerry County Council’s Tom Sheehy earlier claimed the council negotiated with landowners to the “best of its ability”, however, it reached a point where a CPO was the only option available.

He also claimed one landowner (of the 197) said you will never take “one inch of my land”.

The IFA was speaking again?

Yesterday, Thomas Cooney, the National Chairman of the IFA’s Environment & Rural Affairs Committee, said the organisation supports the development of recreational routes. However, he said it’s with regret that the IFA is objecting to the proposed development due to the actions of Kerry County Council.

Today (Friday), Mr Cooney was speaking in response to Kerry County Council’s queries on what the exact definition of a “greenway” is and if it’s explicitly referred to in relevant Road Acts.

Senior Counsel for Kerry County Council Esmond Keane disagreed with the IFA’s reading of the legislation under which the planning application for the greenway was submitted.

In summation, Mr Keane claimed the greenway required an environmental impact statement (EIS) to be compiled, so – due to references in roads legislation that a road requires an EIS – the greenway was liable to be applied for under roads legislation.

Chair of Kerry IFA Pat O’Driscoll disagreed with Mr Keane’s logic; he said if he took a similar example and constructed a pathway through his field in Valentia, which would require an EIS, this wouldn’t make that pathway a public road.

What other submissions, responses or observations were made on Friday?

Kerry County Council responses to a submission by independent observer Edward Fahy were read at the oral hearing.

Mr Fahy’s concerns related mostly to traffic counts, variances in traffic flow and sight distances.

Joe McCrohan of the South Kerry Development Partnership stated that the SKDP is independent of local authority. He says the IFA has members on it and he, along with Pat O’Driscoll, gave hours consulting with farmers prior to KCC coming on board. He said he did his level best to negotiate prior to KCC getting on board.

A number of hours were spent speaking about a road safety report and the procedures which could be in place for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists on the greenway—should the greenway proceed. Can you expand on this?

A civil engineer said he assumes foreign visitors will have common sense if using the South Kerry Greenway.

Ray Butler, an engineer with Kilkenny-based Roadplan Consulting Ltd., was speaking during the fourth day of An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into the proposed greenway about the road safety audited he compiled.

Mr Butler said a road safety audit takes into account the design with respect to ensuring road safety for all users.

Michael O’Donnell, barrister for the Greenway Information Group, queried Mr Butler on a number of issues, including: if he took into account the speeds cyclists could travel at on the greenway; the surface material to be used; which side of the greenway users would travel on; and if the engineer had considered the presence of motorised wheelchairs on the 3m-wide route.

Mr Butler answered no to all questions; however, in relation to which side of the greenway users would travel on, the engineer added that he “assumes all foreign visitors will have common sense” and travel on their left.

Mr O’Donnell also suggested that cyclists could travel up to 40 km/h; Mr Butler agreed.

So, what now?

The oral hearing continues next week. However, it was planned to deal with all information in relation to the planning application this week and the CPO next week. As of Friday afternoon, it’s unknown if the first module will be dealt with in its entirety before the close of business today.

Week Two – CPO submissions and observations

The second week of An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into the proposed South Kerry Greenway began yesterday, Tuesday, 15th October 2019.

The majority of the day was taken up by a reading of responses from Kerry County Council to those who made submissions to the CPO.

The responses addressed a number of issues. Firstly, here’s a quick reminder of what this oral hearing is all about?

The proposed South Kerry Greenway is a 32-km long, 3m-wide walk and cycleway, beginning in Faha near Glenbeigh and terminating in Renard.

This oral hearing, which is being managed by An Bord Pleanála, arose after Kerry County Council decided to acquire the lands needed by compulsory purchase order, following failure to secure agreement over the years with nearly 200 landowners along the route.

There are 222 land holdings along the route owned by 197 landowners – 160 of the land holdings are agricultural holdings.

Last week, the oral hearing focused on objections to the planning application for the greenway itself, while this week’s plan is to examine the objections to the CPO.

Inspector Karla McBride, who is chairing the hearing, opened day five by saying the oral hearing is likely to overrun its planned schedule and run into a third week.

The inspector said An Bord Pleanála initially received 70 submissions; however that’s now down to 30, with most opposing the CPO.

 – Tuesday, 15th October 2019 – 

Today began with Kerry County Council outlining the need for the scheme, and consequently, the CPO. Can you give us a rundown of the council’s argument?

The local authority said the South Kerry area has experienced ongoing population loss and economic and social decline. Conor Culloo, project manager, said the objectives in the County Development Plan reference the delivery of such a scheme and, additionally, “the common good is being served by the delivery of this scheme.”

Kerry County Council read through its responses to those who made submissions to the CPO, including the Greenway Information Group, which comprises 27 landowners.

The group had cited the “inviolability of the right to property”, as stated in the Constitution; in response, the local authority said its actions were carried out in accordance with the law, with extensive negotiations and correct procedural actions employed at every point.

In those responses, what issues were addressed by the council?

The issues addressed include the CPO, liability on landowners, wildlife, security, anti-social behaviour and the potential impact on agriculture payments.

CPO

The South Kerry Greenway is a major infrastructural project and is a national policy objective (objective 22) of the National Planning Framework.  The development of greenways is also a National Strategic Objective (No 3) in the National Development Plan and highlighted as a strategic investment priority under the Rural Regeneration Infrastructure Scheme of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

The proposed project is considered therefore to be in the national interest.

Liability

In responses to those who made submissions to the CPO, the issue of liability was addressed. KCC said the South Kerry Greenway, if approved, will constitute a public road and therefore usual liabilities will pertain.

Wildlife

The project has been assessed for its impact on the environment. A Schedule of Mitigation Measures has been developed as presented in appendix 1.3 of the EIAR.

Animal underpasses will be provided at appropriate locations in accordance with the recommendations of the project ecologist if they are considered to be beneficial to wildlife in the area.

Security

The experience from other developed greenways has been that there has been no increase in criminal activity. The route is fully fenced and there is no access to the greenway to motorised vehicles apart from emergency vehicles who have access through a locked gate.

Agricultural impact in EIAR

The agronomy impacts on most holdings are categorised as minor post mitigation measures being put in place as outlined in the EIAR.

Biosecurity

A reply from the Department of Agriculture Regional Veterinary Inpsectors Office on TB related issues indicates that the risk of spreading disease between farms through the movement of non-agricultural personnel and machinery is negligible. Bovine TB is, in the main, spread by close contact between animals.  It is the responsibility of every farmer to ensure that people entering his/her farm take appropriate biosecurity precautions.  Farmers are advised, by DAFM, about the precautions to take to prevent spread of disease, including cleansing, disinfection and biosecurity.

As regards, concerns relating to the zoonotic component of bTB, the Department follows HSE guidelines on the matter. In Ireland there is little evidence of spread of TB from cattle to humans. The main risk is from drinking unpasteurised milk. The risk is so low that even when an outbreak occurs on a farm where family members regularly drink unpasteurised milk, the only risk group selected for screening are children under 16 years old who have not had a BCG vaccine. The risk of humans getting TB from the activity proposed by Kerry Co Co is overstated.

Impact on Department of Agriculture payments

Any losses can be assessed through the compensatory mechanism within the CPO process.

The potential earning from the scheme maintenance scheme is in excess of the amount that can be reasonably earned from the extent of the landtake and grant qualification.

Provision of litter receptacles

Litter receptacles are provided at the trail heads in keeping with the ‘Leave No Trace’ approach to the facility.  They are not proved along the route as users will be required to bring home their litter or dispose of it at the trail head facilities.

A claim was made that the rights and wishes of farmers in South Kerry are being ignored. Who made this claim, and what was their reasoning? 

For some background on this: the vast majority of the remaining objectors to the CPO – 30 down from a total of 70 – are associated with the Greenway Information Group.

Farmer Patrick O’Shea from Kells is not part of that group.

Farm consultant Dermot O’Brien, who is representing the farmer, said the proposed route runs within 160 feet of Mr O’Shea’s home and impinges on his privacy.

He believes the whole social fabric of South Kerry is affected by disagreement over the greenway, meaningful negotiations have not taken place and that farmers’ rights and wishes are being ignored.

I know Kerry County Council has repeatedly refuted claims of a lack of negotiation from the outset and, as expected, they disagreed with Mr O’Shea’s assertion there was a lack of negotiation in this instance as well. Moving on, this morning on the news we heard one of the main reasons being put forward for the greenway was questioned heavily yesterday. Can you explain?

As mentioned earlier, Kerry County Council claims one of the needs for this greenway is due to population decline.

Barrister Margaret Heavey, representing James Clifford, claimed to have found fault with this. She said that in three of the four electoral divisions which the greenway is due to run through, there has been an increase in population between 2011 and 2016.

Kerry County Council disagreed. Conor Culloo, project manager, and Damien Ginty, Acting Senior Planner, both spoke about declining populations in the area as a whole. Indeed, one of their examples of population decline referenced 2006-2011, as opposed to the more recent times periods references by Ms Heavey.

Again, the council said the whole West Iveragh area should be considered as one when examining population.

Ms Heavey had a creative response: she said, if you added the population of Paris to the population of the Sahara Desert, it would be radically change the population density and therefore distort the actual average populations in each. 

Briefly, can you explain ‘severance’. It’s something which has been mentioned quite a lot during the oral hearing.

Yes, this is among one of the main issues for landowners, especially farmers, along the route. While some might associate ‘severance’ with ‘severance pay’, in this context, it means slicing or dividing. A number of landowners have mentioned it in relation to the dividing of their lands.

For example, imagine the council want to run a walkway through your back garden. They have, in general, two options: one, run a track along by the boundary wall or, two, cut through the middle of your garden. The second option is ‘severance’.

This cutting up – or dividing of farm land – is a major issue for some farmers. In one instance, according to barrister Margaret Heavey, one severance will result in her client’s farm being split into a 1/3 versus 2/3 divide.

I’ll have more on this in the coming days.

Finally, what’s expected to happen today (Wednesday, 16th)

It’s expected to hear from the Greenway Information Group, a conglomeration of 27 landowners being represented by Harrington Solicitors.

It had been planned to end the oral hearing this week, however, Inspector Karla McBride said it’ll continue into next week, with final submissions expected on Wednesday afternoon.

 – Wednesday, 16th October 2019 – 

The biggest talking point from An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into the proposed South Kerry Greenway yesterday (Wednesday, 16th) was the news that Kerry County Council has included three deceased landowners in a CPO application.

The information came to light when a landowner outlined the correspondence sent to his late father, uncle and neighbour.

How did this come about?

Morgan Lyne, a landowner in Kells, said, following his father’s passing in November 2014, he notified the council that his mother was now the owner of the lands being sought.

However, in June 2016, a letter addressed to Mr John Lyne (RIP) invited him to attend a public consultation which was due to take place a week later in Cahersiveen.

Morgan Lyne said the letter, which was received by his 80-year-old mother, caused considerable distress; Mrs Lyne and her late husband were married for 54 years.

Letters were also sent to Mr Lyne’s late uncle, who passed away in 2011, and a neighbour who died in 1972.

I spoke to Morgan Lyne after the hearing and asked him how this came about.

 

That was Morgan Lyne, Kells landowner who received correspondence which was sent to his late father, who’d passed away nearly 18 months prior. What reasons did Kerry County Council give for the letters being sent to Mr Lyne’s late father, uncle and neighbour.

Senior Engineer with Kerry County Council Tom Sheehy, who signed the letters, said the error was due to an issue with a system which speeds up the production and mailing of large volumes of correspondence.

Mr Sheehy said it was a genuine mistake and he apologised for any distress caused.

You can hear the interview with Morgan Lyne in full on Agritime this evening from 7pm.

Elsewhere, what else of note happened yesterday?

It wasn’t the most energetic of days, it has to be said. The majority of the day was spent examining areas along the coast between Renard and Cahersiveen where the greenway route runs next to the shore.

Barrister Margaret Heavey, representing James Clifford, made the argument that planning permission for a coastal protection measure should be sought.

She was speaking about a rock revetment, which is a structure which helps to lessen coastal erosion.

The barrister claimed that the structure would be on the foreshore – which is below the high-water mark – and that it would require a separate planning permission.

Ms Heavey said that the HWM used by the council and its consultants was from Ordinance Survey maps, dated from 1911 or 1912, and that the water mark could have changed in the meantime.

KCC denied that works were below the HWM and, therefore, required planning permission.

Inspector Karla McBride said she can’t make a decision on this, but that she’d put all the information to the board.

Finally, what’s expected today?

This is actually a repetition of what we expected this time yesterday! It’s expected to hear from the Greenway Information Group, a conglomeration of 27 landowners being represented by Harrington Solicitors.

It had been planned to end the oral hearing this week, however, Inspector Karla McBride said it’ll continue into another week and the dates have not been set yet.

 – Thursday, 17th October 2019 – 

It’s claimed there’s a fundamental unfairness at the heart of the South Kerry Greenway CPO.

Barrister Michael O’Donnell, representing the Greenway Information Group, has outlined his clients’ objections to the compulsory purchase order for lands along the 32-km route from Glenbeigh to Renard. What are the objections?

In summary, the objections are:

  1. The need for the greenway has not been established
  2. Lands not suitable
  3. Proposal in contravention of County Development Plan
  4. Predetermined route – route now here was pre-determined from beginning (therefore, necessary engagement and dialogue were not applied)
  5. Detail provided renders it impossible to make appropriate analysis of impacts of scheme
  6. Vagueness or ambiguity in what’s being proposed
  7. Incorrect procedure adopted in respect of the scheme

“Each one [of the above] is – and of itself – sufficient for board not to confirm the CPO” Michael O’Donnell, barrister for the Greenway Information Group.

Mr O’Donnell said the Inspector cannot separate the approval of the scheme and the CPO from the environmental assessment. He added that inspector Karla McBride must:

  • Conduct hearings in accordance with European law
  • Ensure fair procedures apply

In an effort to highlight the constitutional right to own property, Mr O’Donnell also referenced previous decisions in the High and Supreme Courts where landowners’ claims were upheld.

He also said there’s a fundamental unfairness at the heart of this matter; as way of evidence, he pointed to the relatively large expertise and financial resources available to Kerry County Council in comparison to the Greenway Information Group’s.

Mr O’Donnell said many of his clients had to leave their farms or places of work this morning to accommodate the local authority, a body which is seeking to “extinguish their right to own land.”

Additionally, he said the compulsory acquisition of land is a hugely significant issue. These hearings used to be sworn enquiries (which is not the case now), but that doesn’t alter the rights of citizens to hold property. The procedures are part of a legislative suite which are used to protect and vindicate the rights of landowners.

 – Friday, 18th October 2019 – 

The oral into the South Kerry Greenway goes into its eighth day this morning.

A number of issues were highlighted yesterday, including the cost of the project, opportunities to address falling farm incomes and the possibility of the greenway being blocked in 32 locations along the route.  

We’ll start with the costs – can you give us a breakdown of what was revealed yesterday?

Conor Culloo, Senior Engineer with Kerry County Council, told the oral hearing that the estimated capital cost of the proposed greenway is nearly €14 million.

However, this figure only includes construction costs.

According to figures provided by Kerry County Council, the overall costs for the CPO/land acquisition, design and professional fees, accommodation works – along with the construction costs – total €20.6 million.

Of this total, design and planning costs are just under €1 million, a similar figure to the cost of accommodation works.

Costs for the controversial CPO and land acquisition are expected to be nearly €5 million: Over €4 million will be provided for the cost of the land, while €845,000 will be spent on professional fees in relation to the CPO.

There are also annual maintenance costs of €75,000 per year, along with a branding cost of €100,000 in the first year.

greenway-cost

Conor Culloo, Senior Engineer with Kerry County Council, responded to questions on the financial viability of farms along the proposed South Kerry Greenway route. What alternatives did he give?

The barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell, said many of his clients’ farms will be divided due to the greenway.

This, he claimed, will result in an already-marginal economic activity to become further strained to the point where farming in the area becomes unviable.

The barrister asked Mr Culloo what does he propose the affected farmers should do in this instance.

The engineer said the greenway will create many opportunities in the agritourism industry, including an increased demand for both farm produce and accommodation.

Mr O’Donnell asked if the greenway will result in farmers getting a better price for their sheep or cattle; Mr Culloo said the project will make marginal tourism projects more viable in the area.

A claim was made that the greenway could end up being unusable, due to the number of crossings along the route – what was this all about?

I’ll give some details on the dimensions which are relevant to this first:

  • The proposed greenway is 32km in length
  • It’s 3 metres wide
  • There are 32 private crossings along the route
  • There are gates provided at each of these crossings, gates which will open out onto the greenway and block greenway users from travelling along the route.

The point made about this is that, say if a farmer wants to move animals across the greenway, he/she can open the gate from their lands out onto the greenway, blocking the entire route—as, you can imagine, the farmer doesn’t want animals running along the greenway.

So, two gates will be opened across the greenway when farmers want to move animals to lands which the greenway intersects—two gates at each crossing.

At the oral hearing yesterday, KCC was asked is there a time limit on farmers to open the gate, move their animals across and close the gate again. The local authority said there is no time limit. Indeed, they said it was a measure which was put forward during the period of public consultation.

So, while it’s unlikely all crossings along the route will be used at the same time, there are 32 crossings along the 32-km route with two gates each which all block the greenway in its entirety.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group Michael O’Donnell asked could this make the greenway unusable.

The council didn’t reply with a yes or no answer; they did state that when not in use, the gates will be closed to a position which will run parallel with the greenway, thus not affecting GW users. However, a point was raised afterwards about if a farmer is cutting silage—will it result in the greenway being closed at that point. That query wasn’t directly addressed.

The oral hearing, now into day 8, continues this morning.

The oral hearing into the proposed South Kerry Greenway will take a further two weeks to conclude. 

The second week of the oral hearing ended this afternoon with An Bord Pleanála inspector Karla McBride saying a further two weeks will be needed to conclude matters; it had been expected the hearing would take two weeks in total.

The hearing had been divided into two modules: week one comprised submissions to the planning application for the greenway, while this week was concerned with submissions to the CPO.

However, the time needed for both was significantly underestimated.

This morning, barrister for the Greenway Information Group Michael O’Donnell took issue with the inspector’s declaration that his submission – and that of his 27 clients – has to be concluded by 3pm.

He said his clients have a deep feeling of unease over how the oral hearing has been run: for example, he cited discrepancies between the amount of time afforded to the council in comparison to his clients; he claimed “ultimatums” are being placed upon the group in relation to giving their submissions; and he said there’s an inconsistency between what’s being said and what’s being done by An Bord Pleanála.

It’s my observation that the process has been punctuated by matters surrounding documention – e.g. requests for documentation and the ensuing distribution of papers. Also noteworthy has been the repetition of both questions and given answers, and the frequent disagreement between the legal representatives of both the local authority and landowners.

In response, the inspector said it’s her job to manage and administer the hearing in an expedient manner.

During the second week of the oral hearing six landowners made submissions, with at least a further 20 to be represented by barrister Michael O’Donnell during week four.

Week three is due to commence on Tuesday, November 12th in a Tralee venue.

It’s claimed the proposed South Kerry Greenway could break even within nine years of opening.

To estimate the potential visitor numbers to the proposed South Kerry Greenway, 2016 visitor numbers from a similar greenway in Mayo have been adopted.

A benefit-to-cost analysis was prepared for the council’s Economic Appraisal Report for the greenway; in it, the local authority assumed that it will take five years post-completion of construction to reach full potential, with no income during the three-year construction stage.

Kerry County Council expects the project will break even at worst case scenario in year 14 and in best case year nine.

Over a 30-year timeframe, the expected profit return varies widely between €20 and €80 million.

Eamonn Hickson – 19th October 2019

WEEK THREE

– Tuesday,12th November 2019 –

 

sk-greenway-hearing

An oral hearing has been told the proposed South Kerry Greenway is as vital as the Adare or Macroom bypasses.

Kerry County Council is proposing to build the 32-kilometre cycling and walking route from Glenbeigh to Renard.

The hearing being held by An Bord Pleanala resumed this morning following two weeks of evidence last month and is examining the greenway application and the proposed CPO for the lands needed.

June O’Connell, who is originally from Barr na Sraide, Caherciveen, but has lived in Dublin for 25 years, described the South Kerry Greenway as a piece of economic infrastructure that is as vital as the Adare or Macroom Bypasses.

She said the project is innovative, world class and is vital for the economic integrity of the region and means more families can settle in the area.

Ms O’Connell, who chairs a diaspora network, says landowners are important but they are not the most important people.

Morgan Lyne,a landowner in Gortnagree, Kells, told the hearing he is in favour of the greenway but said Kerry County Council’s unwillingness to listen to the concerns of landowners has soured the project completely.

He urged An Bord Pleanala to take these concerns on board and said landowners have to be accommodated, adding that the greenway has to be done with the goodwill of farmers.

An environmental campaigner claims he could go to court if the South Kerry Greenway is approved based on information supplied by Kerry County Council regarding bats.

The claim was made as the oral hearing on the project resumed today for another two weeks.

Kerry County Council is proposing to build the 32-kilometre route from Glenbeigh to Renard, it is also seeking to acquire the lands needed through Compulsory Purchase Order; both the development and the CPO are being examined in the hearing.

Ecologist with Malachy Walsh and Partners, Muiréad Kelly, told the oral hearing that a vacant house close to Mountain Stage on the N70 Ring of Kerry road was found to be a summer roost for lesser horseshoe bats in August 2017.

The proposed greenway will pass adjacent to the house, which will lead to construction activity and noise in the area; a limited amount of rock breaking will be required and these works will be undertaken outside of the bat’s breeding season.

The works will be supervised by a project ecologist and the roost will be enhanced while the bats are hibernating underground.

Environmental campaigner, Peter Sweetman claimed the Natura Impact Statement, Kerry Slug Plan and Invasive Species Plan associated with the project all have lacuna or gaps.

Mr Sweetman was unhappy with the level of detail supplied by Kerry County Council, he told Inspector Karla McBride if An Bord Pleanala granted the project based on the information supplied on the Lesser horseshoe bat he would go straight to court.

The hearing is currently completing module one, which is the greenway project itself, and this continued at Manor West Hotel, Tralee today.

In terms of a timeline, Inspector Karla McBride said the second module in relation to the application for a Compulsory Purchase Order for the 222 landholdings needed will begin next week and should be completed by Friday evening week.

Before the witnesses began yesterday, Inspector Karla McBride said she was requested by the board of An Bord Pleanala to make a statement about conduct at the oral hearing.

She said inappropriate or aggressive behaviour is not acceptable, nor is an attempt to undermine the person running the oral hearing, nor are constant interruptions that obstruct or hinder the person conducting the hearing.

Ms McBride said if she observes or perceives such behaviour she will first issue a verbal warning and if it continues the person responsible will be asked to leave the hearing.

Mortimer Moriarty who runs Mannix Point Caravan Park in Caherciveen told the hearing he supports the greenway.

Following the closure of the railway in 1961, there was a meeting to see if the route could be used for amenity like a walk and cycleway and nature reserve but this didn’t proceed.

Mr Moriarty, says he is 37 years working in the tourism industry and wholeheartedly welcomes the greenway, which he says will be of benefit to south Kerry and beyond.

He said tourism is the main source of income in the region and contributes to job retention and he is convinced the greenway will bring jobs.

He said he sympathises with landowners and understands their fears but can’t understand those with young families objecting to the project.

We heard from June O’Connell, who is originally from Barr na Sraide, Caherciveen but has lived in Dublin for 25 years.

She chairs a diaspora network and spends six months of the year in Caherciveen.

She said the South Kerry Greenway is a piece of economic infrastructure and is as vital as the Adare or Macroom Bypasses.

She said one in five jobs in the region is dependent on tourism and pointed to recent comment by Failte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly who said we need to engage with visitors in a carbon neutral way.

She said the project is innovative, world class and is vital for the economic integrity of the region and means more families can settle in the area.

Ms O’Connell says landowners are important but they are not the most important people. There are other people who are important but can’t attend the hearing.

Here is an interview with Ms O’Connell:

Morgan Lyne, who is a landowner in Gortnagree, Kells, told the hearing he is in favour of the greenway but said Kerry County Council’s unwillingness to listen to the concerns of landowners has soured the project completely.

He asked An Bord Pleanala to take these concerns on board and the approach of Kerry County Council to the project.

Mr Lyne says landowners have to be accommodated adding that the greenway has to be done with the goodwill of farmers.

Brian Harrington, a solicitor on behalf of the Greenway Information Group, which includes 27 landowners, said the roads act is being relied on by Kerry County Council and as part of this the design must be complete on the date of application.

Mr Harrington said there are design deficiencies and further documentation submitted by the council in April and at the beginning of the oral hearing must be considered.

He said the board must be satisfied with scientific certainty that there are no gaps in the scheme – if there are doubts the board must refuse the project.

He added that it will become clear that the council hasn’t collected all the necessary information.

He said the project will affect landholdings in a material sense and the full impact of the scheme is impossible to quantify.

He said it won’t just be landowners affected by the scheme but others won’t be affected daily on a negative basis.

None of the landowners he represents are opposed to the greenway – they are born, raised in the area with no intention of leaving.

He claimed the project would have a serious impact on the environment, have a negative impact on the character of the area and would undermine tourism.

Mr Harrington said the project as proposed, forgetting the legal difficulties, is impractical and will never work.

He said it is incumbent on Kerry County Council if it wants the scheme to see the light of day to consider the full impact on his clients – if that happened there is likely to be consensus and this would benefit all stakeholders.

Environmental campaigner Peter Sweetman told the hearing the Natura Impact Statement, Kerry Slug Plan and Invasive Species Plan all have lacuna or gaps.

There was detailed questioning by Mr Sweetman of the council on a roosting site of the lesser horse shoe bat.

The local authority said works will be conducted when bats wouldn’t be there and be an enhanced condition when they return.

Mr Sweetman was unhappy with the level of detail supplied by Kerry County Council – he told Inspector McBride if An Bord Pleanala granted the project based on the information supplied he would go straight to court.

Brian Harrington, solicitor for the Greenway Information Group, sought clarity about priority use on the greenway when it came to landowners getting access for agricultural purposes.

Barrister for Kerry County Council, Esmond Keane told the hearing agricultural crossings will not have priority over users of the greenway.

Mr Keane denied a claim by Mr Harrington that Kerry County Council wanted to drive a wedge in as deep a manner as possible in the community.

Project manager, Conor Culloo said priority will be given to residents seeking access to their homes and added that gates are designed that they can be left open in the event of frequent crossings being needed by landowners doing agricultural work; similar gates are used on the Waterford Greenway.

Meanwhile, Trevor Byrne of Fehilly Timoney and Co, who was employed to write the Traffic and Transportation chapter of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report for Kerry County Council, told the hearing he sees a difference between the greenway and a public road.

Mr Byrne wasn’t aware that Kerry County Council’s application is being made under the Roads Act; he said he didn’t see it as being relevant and said he wouldn’t consider the greenway a typical public road.

Council barrister, Esmond Keane said the rules of the road would apply to the South Kerry Greenway as they do to all public roads.

Mr Keane said there is a duty on everyone to cooperate in the running of a public road.

– Wednesday,12th November 2019 –

The oral hearing on the proposed south Kerry Greenway has heard a claim that the project, as proposed, is impractical and will never work.

It’s the third week of An Bord Pleanala’s hearing examining Kerry County Council’s proposed 32-kilometre route from Glenbeigh to Renard at the Manor West Hotel, Tralee.

Brian Harrington, a solicitor on behalf of the Greenway Information Group, which includes 27 landowners, said Kerry County Council is making its application under the Roads Act and as part of this the design must be complete on the date of application.

Mr Harrington said there are design deficiencies and further documentation submitted by the council in April and at the beginning of the oral hearing must be considered.

He said the board must be satisfied with scientific certainty that there are no gaps in the scheme – if there are doubts the board must refuse the project.

He claimed it will become clear that the council hasn’t collected all the necessary information – what are we all here for, he asked, if there is such a breach of critical information?

He said it won’t just be landowners affected by the scheme but others won’t be affected daily on a negative basis; none of the landowners he represents are opposed to the greenway.

Mr Harrington claimed the project would have a serious impact on the environment, have a negative impact on the character of the area and would undermine tourism.

Mr Harrington said the project as proposed, forgetting the legal difficulties, is impractical and will never work.

He said it is incumbent on Kerry County Council if it wants the scheme to see the light of day to consider the full impact on his clients – if that happened there is likely to be consensus and this would benefit all stakeholders.

Landowners using crossings for agricultural purposes on the proposed South Kerry Greenway won’t have priority over users of the greenway.

Kerry County Council clarified the position at An Bord Pleanala’s oral hearing into the 32-kilometre project aiming to link Glenbeigh to Renard.

Solicitor for the Greenway Information Group, Brian Harrington, sought clarity about priority use on the greenway when it came to landowners getting access for agricultural purposes.

Barrister for Kerry County Council, Esmond Keane told the hearing agricultural crossings will not have priority over the users of the greenway.

Mr Keane denied a claim by Mr Harrington that Kerry County Council wanted to drive a wedge in as deep a manner as possible in the community.

Project manager, Conor Culloo said priority will be given to residents seeking access and added that gates are designed that they can be left open in the event of frequent crossings being needed by landowners doing agricultural work; similar gates are used on the Waterford Greenway.

Meanwhile, Trevor Byrne, of Fehilly Timoney and Co, who was employed to write the Traffic and Transportation chapter of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report, told the hearing he sees a difference between the greenway and a public road.

Mr Byrne wasn’t aware that Kerry County Council’s application is being made under the Roads Act; he said he didn’t see it as being relevant and said he wouldn’t consider the greenway a typical public road.

Council barrister, Esmond Keane said the rules of the road would apply to the South Kerry Greenway as they do to all public roads.

A recap of Wednesday 13th November at the South Kerry Greenway Oral Hearing

This is the third week of the hearing by An Bord Pleanala at the Manor West Hotel in Tralee.

Kerry County Council is seeking permission to build the 32-kilometre walk and cycleway from Glenbeigh to Renard; it is also seeking approval to acquire the lands needed by Compulsory Purchase Order.

Environmental campaigner, Peter Sweetman referenced several cases in a legal submission including cases he previously took against An Bord Pleanala.

Mr Sweetman again pointed to what he sees as lacuna or gaps in information provided by Kerry County Council.

He said there was no evidence that a plan to put yogurt on rocks for the benefit of the Kerry Slug will work and that the plan for a roosting site in a derelict house for lesser horseshoe bats may have a significant negative effect on the animals.

He said there were only economic reasons put forward by Kerry County Council for the project but this is not a reason under the Habitats Directive.

Mr Sweetman also said public money was spent by Kerry County Council to produce documents and to go the district court.

In February at Killarney District Court, Judge David Waters refused to grant warrants to the council to enter the lands of four men on the route of the proposed greenway to carry out site investigation works.

During the case, project manager and senior engineer Conor Culloo told the court the works were desirable but not necessary – he said there is adequate information as it stands for the planning application but the additional information would bring certainty regarding costs and engineering considerations.

Yesterday at the oral hearing, Kerry County Council also informed An Bord Pleanala ecologist Dr Meave Flynn that no further site investigations are required for the project.

Concerns were raised by barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell that Dr Flynn would not be present beyond tomorrow morning; Mr O’Donnell said her presence and expertise was an ease to his clients given the resources of Kerry County Council.

Mr O’Donnell told Inspector Karla McBride it is clearly prejudicial to him if Dr Flynn is not present.

Inspector McBride said Dr Flynn would be able to listen back to the recording of the hearing when it finished, she apologised for the breakdown in communicating to Mr O’Donnell that Dr Flynn had other commitments with An Bord Pleanala.

Dr Elaine Bennett, who is the co-ordinator of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and is a senior scientist, told barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell that she hasn’t walked the full 32 kilometre route but has walked sections and has driven in the environs of others.

She agreed that there are three types of lands where works will be carried out: greenfield, intact railway embankments and areas where the railway has been removed.

Ms Bennett said Kerry County Council had done a lot of the design work including calculations about volumes of materials; she told the hearing she didn’t do a detailed analysis of those calculations.

Project Manager Conor Culloo told Mr O’Donnell that in terms of the materials that would be removed from site during the excavation of the greenway an average figure is used.

Mr Culloo said the average excavation would be 150 millimetres deep but that can vary above or below that in respect of different ground conditions – he said this is why you use an average excavation figure for the total length of the greenway.

He said this is a reasonable approach to construction, however, Mr O’Donnell said it was not a reasonable approach for the purpose of an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Over 56% of the scheme is on the old railway and Mr Culloo noted that parts of the greenway route used to hold the weight of a train.

He said materials that could not be reused on the greenway would be removed from the site and be brought to a compound before being disposed of in an authorised facility.

There was a strong exchange between the An Bord Pleanala Inspector and a barrister.

After lunch, Inspector Karla McBride issued a statement regarding the timeline of the hearing – she stressed that module one will finish on Friday or before and module 2 will be completed on Friday week or before.

She urged parties to use their time for questions wisely.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell took exception to this and felt the comments were directed at him personally.

Inspector McBride said her comments were directed at all parties – she added that proceedings were moving at a snail’s pace.

Mr O’Donnell became very annoyed by this statement and said his questions were relevant and that he wanted an atmosphere of co-operation.

 

oral-hearing1 south kerry greenway

– Thursday,12th November 2019 –

 

The oral hearing on the proposed south Kerry Greenway has been told that an ecologist will supervise works on the project and ensure all mitigation measures are in place for a bat roost.

Kerry County Council is seeking permission to develop the 32-kilometre walk and cycleway from Glenbeigh to Renard; it is also asking An Bord Pleanala to approve a Compulsory Purchase Order for the lands needed.

The oral hearing previously heard the vacant house close to Mountain Stage is a summer roost for lesser horseshoe bats.

843 metres cubed of rock will need to be broken and removed to allow space for the greenway corridor without impacting on the roost site; the rock breaking will take three or four days and construction works will last a number of weeks.

Senior ecologist with Malachy Walsh and Partners for Kerry County Council, Muiread Kelly, said construction and rock breaking does have the potential to disturb bats.

To mitigate against this, she said works will be carried out at the site outside of the maternity season and only when it is confirmed the bats have vacated.

Ms Kelly, who inspected the roost with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, told the hearing the maternity season for the bat is from May 1st to September 1st.

She told barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell, that bats were recorded at the house on September 2nd and 4th.

However, An Bord Pleanala ecologist Dr Maeve Flynn noted there are always pluses and minuses when it comes to dates.

Mr O’Donnell asked Ms Kelly on five occasions what noise and vibration thresholds from rock breaking and construction would disturb bats; she didn’t have exact figures.

Ms Kelly said the roost is located beside the N70 Ring of Kerry road which is very busy with traffic during the summer months and they are not affected by that.

She told Mr O’Donnell that the project ecologist will supervise all of the works and ensure all mitigation measures are in place for the bats.

She said it is very unlikely the bats would return to the summer roost if they emerged early from winter hibernation.

Ms Kelly said the conditions in the house are not suitable for winter hibernation.

An oral hearing has been told tanks for toilets on the proposed South Kerry Greenway will be emptied by a vacuum tanker and brought to a wastewater treatment plant.

Kerry County Council is seeking permission to construct a 32-kilometre walk and cycleway from Glenbeigh to Renard; it is also seeking approval for a Compulsory Purchase Order for the lands needed.

There are four toilet blocks proposed at carparks along the route; it’s estimated a quarter of a million people will use the greenway annually.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell sought clarity on the procedures surrounding the emptying of tanks for toilets at a proposed carpark at Glenbeigh Head, which is close to the River Behy.

Dr Elaine Bennett, who is the coordinator of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) for the project, told the hearing there is no risk of effluent escaping.

Project manager, Conor Culloo said the carparks on the greenway will be closed each evening and will be monitored on a daily basis; collecting tanks will be fitted with an audio alarm to notify staff when it is reaching capacity.

Mr Culloo said the tanks will be emptied by a vacuum tanker operated by a contractor licenced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

He said Irish Water confirmed there is adequate capacity at Caherciveen and Killorglin Wastewater Treatment plants to deal with the material.

Mr O’Donnell asked if there is a design in the EIAR to deal with a spillage and if the contractor would have such equipment on the tanker; Mr Culloo said the obligation would be on the contractor to deal with a spill first.

Mr Culloo said volumes in the collection tanks are modest.

Kerry County Council denied repeated claims from Michael O’Donnell that there was an absence of consideration for the presence of the freshwater pearl mussel in the River Behy.

The hearing was told the mussel is sensitive to silt and needs very clean water.

Gerard Hayes, who is an aquatic consultant for Malachy Walsh and Partners on behalf of the council, said he conducted a survey with a second ecologist of the River Behy over two days in the summer of 2017.

It was information from the National Parks and Wildlife Service that prompted the survey of over 300 metres of the river.

Mr Hayes said seven adult mussels were found in a 200 metre stretch; one adjacent to the proposed carpark and six more upstream from the site.

Mr Hayes said he didn’t have a licence to survey for juvenile mussels but said conditions in the river due to silt were unsuitable for regeneration of the species.

In relation to the proposed development, Mr Hayes said there are concerns for the mussels but the mitigation measure of a silt trap is sufficient.

Ecologist Patrick Ryan for Malachy Walsh and Partners on behalf of the council told the hearing the seven mussels have no relationship to those in the Killarney National Park Special Area of Conservation.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell sought clarity on the proposed carpark at Glenbeigh Head, which was described as a sensitive environmental site.

David McHugh of Fehily Timoney prepared the Soils, Geology and Hydrogeology chapter of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report for Kerry County Council.

Mr McHugh said measures will be put in place to prevent the release of sediment into the adjacent River Behy.

Mr McHugh said the site management drainage plan for the location, which is not in a Special Area of Conservation, will be updated and added to by the contractor and said a petrol interceptor will be used.

A stilling pond will be used during the construction, which sees water retained for a period until the matter settles, the water can then be discharged to the River Behy; the hearing heard the pond is a physical form of treatment through settlement.

The precise location of the pond would be a matter for the contractor.

The hearing was told the proposed works would be within 10 metres of the River Behy.

Ecologist with Malachy Walsh and Partners for the council, Muiread Kelly told the hearing that two rare or protected plant species have been identified along the proposed south Kerry Greenway route.

Ms Kelly said she carried out habitat surveys which included botanical species on over ten occasions from 2013 to earlier this year.

She said St Patrick’s Cabbage and Camomile were identified; both are protected species of plants.

Ms Kelly said St Patrick’s Cabbage is widespread in Kerry and was found east of Mountain Stage and outside tunnels where the greenway will pass through.

She said mitigation measures are in the plan regarding the plants and pre-construction surveys for the species will be carried out.

Maria Cullen, who has carried out botanical studies for 25 years and has a geology degree from Trinity College Dublin, was called to give evidence by barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell.

Ms Cullen said she examined the area and found St Patrick’s Cabbage in the tunnels; she said it would be of concern if there are works in the tunnel.

Ms Cullen said camomile is near threatened and added that she also identified protected moss and lichens during her survey.

 

An environmental campaigner has claimed that granting planning permission for the South Kerry Greenway would be contrary to European law.

Environmental campaigner, Peter Sweetman made his final submission to the hearing.

Mr Sweetman said the assessments carried out by Kerry County Council under the Habitats Directive can’t have lacuna or gaps and must contain complete, precise and definitive findings and conclusions.

These must be capable of removing all reasonable scientific doubt as to the effect of the proposed works on the protected site and species concerned.

He claimed the full facts on the effects on the freshwater pearl mussel have not been given and said Inspector Karla McBride can’t make a finding on it.

He also claimed An Bord Pleanala would be acting outside its powers if it decided to grant permission to the greenway as it would go against European law.

Kerry County Council barrister, Esmond Keane said he will reply to Mr Sweetman’s comments in his closing address.

oral-hearing2

 

– Friday,15th November 2019 –

FRIDAY 15th November 2019

Kerry County Council has denied that a planning report contained in the application for the proposed South Kerry Greenway is simply a promotion of the scheme.

The local authority is seeking permission to build a 32-kilometre walking and cycling route from Glenbeigh to Renard; it also seeking approval for a Compulsory Purchase Order for the lands needed.

An Bord Pleanala’s oral hearing on the project at Manor West Hotel, Tralee is in its third week.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell put it to Executive Planner with Kerry County Council, Eoin Kelleher that a planning report associated with the project didn’t include any negative aspect or concerns about the scheme.

Mr Kelleher said he was satisfied with the approach taken by his and he believes issues of concern are dealt with in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report.

Mr O’Donnell said the project is a 32 kilometre public road with five carparks crossing a high amenity landscape.

Mr O’Donnell claimed the planning report is partisan and nothing more than a promotion of the development adding there is not a single balancing sentence.

Mr Kelleher disagreed and said he is satisfied the project won’t have a significant impact on sensitive areas or the landscape character.

He added he feels the project is in accordance with proper planning and sustainable development of the area and policy documents. Mr O’Donnell said there are fundamental planning questions that need to be asked, is it right to put a road through this landscape and what is the impact on people, livelihoods and the landscape?

He said there was no objective evidence in the planning report and it was the most blatant cherry picking of a development plan only identifying parts that promote the greenway project and exclude everything else.

A landscape architect has told the South Kerry Greenway oral hearing that a proposed new white bridge would have a low or negligible impact on the landscape.

Landscape Architect, Richard Barker wrote the Landscape and Visual chapter of Kerry County Council’s Environmental Impact Assessment Report on the proposed greenway.

He told the hearing the area where the development is proposed is not a pristine landscape but an attractive one characterised by farms, houses and roads.

The greatest engineering intervention on the greenway is on the coastal section of the scheme below Drung Hill near Gleensk, where a new white bridge will be constructed; it replaces a bridge designed for the former Caherciveen railway by Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo in the 1800’s.

Mr Barker told the hearing the proposed bridge will have a negligible visual impact as the area is largely about coastal views and a low to negligible impact on the landscape.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell said he found this to be an extraordinary finding.

Mr Barker said in his opinion the proposed structure was an attractive bridge, tastefully designed and doesn’t look out of place.

Earlier, Mr Barker said harris fencing, which is a tubular steel fencing up to 2.4 metres in height, will be used during the construction phase.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell objected on numerous occasions to An Bord Pleanala Inspector, Karla McBride due to Mr Barker conferring with Project Manager, Conor Culloo on aspects of the scheme.

Mr O’Donnell claimed that Mr Barker didn’t understand the nature of works proposed.

Mr Barker said he understood he was allowed to confer.

Kerry County Council barrister, Esmond Keane said the oral hearing is an information gathering exercise.

Mr Barker said the fencing wasn’t material to his assessment as he was concerned with impacts on the landscape and the duration in this case is temporary.

When asked about noise abatement measures for Mr O’Donnell’s client’s homes during construction, Mr Barker said not every specific aspect of construction was considered as the duration is temporary.

Mr Barker said this is not a large scale development it is light footprint and temporary in nature.

He added that his key consideration was the operational stage as it is a sensitive landscape and he was concerned about what would be left behind.

 

The co-ordinator of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report for the South Kerry Greenway says she wasn’t given a report comparing alternative routes by Kerry County Council.

An Bord Pleanala completed its third week of an oral hearing on the proposed project at Manor West Hotel, Tralee yesterday.

Kerry County Council is seeking permission to build the 32-kilometre walk and cycleway from Glenbeigh to Renard; it is also seeking approval to acquire the lands needed by Compulsory Purchase Order.

Senior Engineer with Kerry County Council, Tom Sheehy said consultants Fehily Timoney were appointed for the scheme in 2015.

Mr Sheehy said Kerry County Council conducted the route selection and design for the greenway over two years, which was completed in July 2017.

Co-ordinator of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report, Dr Elaine Bennett told barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell that an assessment and costings for an alternative greenfield route were completed by the council.

The route along the former railway line was favoured mainly due to cost.

However, Ms Bennett told the hearing she wasn’t given the assessment report comparing the railway and greenfield routes but was aware of the findings.

Ms Bennett said a comparative environmental assessment has been conducted for the alternative options and was submitted at the beginning of the oral hearing as an addendum to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report.

The hearing was also told there are 336 carparking spaces including across five carparks along the scheme.

Senior Engineer with Kerry County Council, Tom Sheehy said in relation the site for the carpark at Glenbeigh Head adjacent to the River Behy was selected as it was as close as possible to the beginning of the trial head.

Mr Sheehy said very little alternative land was available and this site was suitable.

He denied that it was only selected because the landowner made it available.

 

SUBMISSIONS ON THE CLOSING OF MODULE ONE OF THE ORAL HEARING

In his submission, barrister for the Greenway Information  Group, Michael O’Donnell  formally objected on how he was limited and truncated in terms of time and the issues he wanted to raise during the hearing.

Mr O’Donnell said he doesn’t believe the application made by Kerry County Council under the Roads Act is the appropriate procedure and the project should be brought under the Planning and Development Act.

Mr O’Donnell says the greenway is characterised as an amenity and this is a misconceived application.

He said due to part of the development on the foreshore it invokes the Planning Act and a procedure should be followed; he said the hearing should have been abandoned when this became clear.

He said the greenway is not exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists but also a range of motorised vehicles.

He said greenways aren’t provided for under the Roads Act and can’t be shoehorned into it.

Mr O’Donnell said the Environmental Impact Assessment Report doesn’t comply with mandatory regulations.

He also pointed to the imbalance of resources between the council and his clients.

Mr O’Donnell said this is a pristine landscape and it is proposed to build a public road through it.

He also said putting the greenway through a Special Area of Conservation is a significant issue as is the impact on rare and protected species.

Barrister for Kerry County Council, Esmond Keane said the local authority had engaged significant scientific expertise in the preparation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and the Natura Impact Statement.

Mr Keane said the development was a cycleway for use by pedestrians and cyclists and emergency and maintaince vehicles.

The overwhelming support and appreciation of need for the scheme by residents of the area cannot be overstated.

The vast majority of residents are eager to avoid any further population decline particularly the younger generation and to provide employment opportunities.

Mr Keane said the development of a greenway on the old railway embankment with such little pollution and intervention must be seen as the ideal solution to the economic deprivation of the area.

Mr Keane said such a level of public appreciation for the need for the scheme and absence of any objections to the greenway, in principle, is a clear reflection the care and effort taken by the council over many years in its assessment of need for the scheme, design, route selection, mitigation and environmental enhancement.

He said this is not a major piece of infrastructure despite what had been claimed.

He pointed to improved safety and developing a green tourist attraction and improved connectivity for communities.

Mr Keane said the application had to be brought under the Roads Act as it could not have been brought under the provisions of the Planning Act.

Mr Keane said the development doesn’t extend to the foreshore, care has been to avoid any adverse impact on Natura 2000 sites and significant measures are proposed to ensure no adverse environmental impacts as far as possible.

Mr Keane said the area is in significant need of this development and that has been made abundantly clear.

Earlier, in response to a legal submission made by environmental campaigner Peter Sweetman, Mr Keane said the council is satisfied that the assessments it carried out are in full accordance with the provisions of the Habitats Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.

He said the Environmental Impact Assessment Report provides complete, precise and definitive findings to remove all reasonable scientific doubt relating to works on protected sites for An Bord Pleanala.

WEEK FOUR

-TUESDAY 19th November 2019-

An application by Kerry County Council to acquire the lands needed for the proposed South Kerry Greenway through Compulsory Purchase Order is being examined this week.

An Bord Pleanala is beginning its fourth and final week of an oral hearing on the proposed scheme at the Manor West Hotel, Tralee this morning.

Kerry County Council is seeking permission to construct a 32-kilometre walk and cycleway from Glenbeigh to Renard; it is also seeking approval for a Compulsory Purchase Order for the lands needed.

An Bord Pleanala has split this oral hearing into two modules.

Inspector Karla McBride spent three weeks on the first module examining the greenway development itself.

This included environmental and economic concerns along the proposed route.

Evidence was heard about protected species such the Kerry slug, lesser horseshoe bat and the plant St Patrick’s cabbage.

This week, the more controversial aspect of the proposal, the CPO, will be examined.

Inspector McBride said An Bord Pleanala is particularly interested in how the proposed project will impact on landowners.

Kerry County Council says it had no choice to apply for the CPO for the over 220 parcels of land needed, as years of negotiation failed to get consensus with all of the almost 180 landowners involved.

The hearing is due to resume at 10 o’clock.

A barrister representing landowners has hit out at a unilateral change in Kerry County Council’s position in terms of farmers’ right of way on the proposed South Kerry Greenway.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell said that in terms of a pedigree Arabian horse farm on the proposed route, the council previously stated this was a normal crossing on the greenway where farmers have the right of way and cyclists will yield.

Barrister for the council, Esmond Keane said farmers will not have priority unless accessing a residence; this was an error on behalf of the local authority, which was corrected last week to Mr O’Donnell’s solicitor Brian Harrington.

Mr Harrington said that was an off-the-cuff remark made by Project Manager Conor Culloo and that nothing was presented in writing.

Mr O’Donnell said this was a 180-degree turn and he had relied on the council’s previous position up until now when questioning experts; that position had now unilaterally changed.

Inspector Karla McBride said the concerns are noted and she would take account of this in her report to An Bord Pleanala and if the board was minded to grant permission the issue of access could be dealt with in accompanying conditions.

The issue of liability on the proposed South Kerry Greenway has been raised at an oral hearing on the project.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell claimed if his client’s livestock wandered onto the greenway, the farmers would be liable for any damage caused.

Inspector Karla McBride sought clarity from Kerry County Council on the matter as she said she was under the impression that the council would be liable.

Denis O’Connor said he and the landowners had been told the greenway would be insured.

Kerry County Council’s response to Mr O’Connor’s submission on the CPO states: “The greenway is a public road and the insurances that are in place for the public road network as it stands will extend to the route.”

Barrister for Kerry County Council, Esmond Keane said the council would retain ownership of fencing on the greenway, which is being developed under the Roads Act, and would be responsible for its maintenance.

In relation to liability with livestock, Mr Keane pointed to the Animals Act of 1985.

It states that where damage is caused by an animal straying from unfenced land onto a public road, the person who placed the animal on the land won’t be regarded as breaching a duty of care if the land is in an area where fencing is not customary and they had a right to place the animal on that land.

Recap on Tuesday…

Kerry County Council is seeking permission to construct a 32-kilometre walk and cycleway from Glenbeigh to Renard; it is also seeking approval for a Compulsory Purchase Order for the lands needed

This is the fourth week of An Bord Pleanala’s oral heating on the scheme; during module two, Inspector Karla McBride is examining the CPO application.

Pat Kavanagh who is manager of IRD Foilmore Kells Company addressed the hearing first on week four.

Mr Kavanagh said the proposed greenway is the answer to issues in the region including population decline, economic and job opportunities.

He said as parents of young children it is our duty to provide employment.

Mr Kavanagh said this is an opportunity for future generations and he pointed to the success of other greenway projects.

He said he was passionately begging all involved to deliver the project and to consider the future.

Mr Kavanagh said all that was previously spoken about in South Kerry was football and the weather and now people at home and abroad are speaking about the potential of the greenway.

He borrowed a famous quote from Knocknagoshel and told the hearing: “Arise South Kerry, and take your place among the nations of the earth!

The hearing was told by Inspector Karla McBride that there are 17 landowners are scheduled to address the oral hearing during this second module.

Barrister Michael O’Donnell said some landowners wouldn’t be able to attend in person due to personal circumstances and he would present evidence on their behalf.

Agronomist for Kerry County Council Diarmuid O’Sullivan said he prepared surveys on the on the lands that it is proposed the greenway will pass through.

He said for 86 landowners the greenway would run along external boundaries and for the remaining 74 their lands would be sub-divided or severed by the proposed route.

In terms of those 74, Mr O’Sullivan visited the farms of 29 landowners and completed detailed questionnaires, in the remaining 45 permission was not granted for a survey of the lands to be undertaken, in this instance Mr O’Sullivan used a desktop assessment, local enquiries and roadside inspections.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell hit out at a unilateral change in Kerry County Council’s position in terms of farmers’ right of way on the proposed South Kerry Greenway.

Mr O’Donnell said that in terms of a pure bred Arabian horse farm on the proposed route, the council previously stated this was a normal crossing on the greenway where farmers have the right of way and cyclists will yield.

Barrister for the council, Esmond Keane said farmers will not have priority unless accessing a residence; this was an error on behalf of the local authority, which was corrected last week to Mr O’Donnell’s solicitor Brian Harrington.

Mr Harrington said that was an off-the-cuff remark made by Project Manager Conor Culloo and that nothing was presented in writing.

Mr O’Donnell said this was a 180-degree turn and he had relied on the council’s previous position up until now when questioning experts; that position had now unilaterally changed.

Agronomist Diarmuid O’Sullivan said it was his understanding from the very beginning that these were agricultural crossings.

Inspector Karla McBride said the concerns are noted and she would take account of this in her report to An Bord Pleanala and if the board was minded to grant permission the issue of access could be dealt with in accompanying conditions.

Denis O’Connor told the hearing he and his wife Carmel returned from America in 1991 and bought their land and have raised three children.

Mr O’Connor operates a sheep farm, six acres of which are used for lambing and silage would be below the proposed line of the greenway.

He said the greenway would be pretty much the death of his farm.

He also raised insurance concerns about bringing animals across the greenway.

Mr O’Connor said during silage season he could cross the greenway up to 60 times a day.

He also said they were told by the council the farmers would be the priority user of the greenway; when asked by Inspector Karla McBride if it changed that farmers would have priority he said it would take uncertainty out the situation.

Mr O’Connor told the hearing the greenway wouldn’t fit the landscape – he said it would look like stitches across someone’s head.

He said it would be a tarmac streak on the landscape and would be a pure imposition on it.

He said the impact would be colossal.

Mr O’Connor said the council had left landowners with no option but to come to the hearing to defend themselves; none of the landowners wanted to be there, he said.

He said this shit is not on in any civilised society.

Agronomist for Kerry County Council, Diarmuid O’Sullivan said he had been refused permission to survey Mr O’Connor’s farm.

He said he previously worked for Mr O’Connor for several years but didn’t disclose this to the council due to data protection legislation.

During questioning by barrister, Michael O’Donnell, he repeatedly denied that he used any of his previous personal correspondence on or knowledge of Mr O’Connor’s farm as part of his survey.

Mr O’Sullivan said he relied on a roadside survey and local enquiries.

The issue of liability on the proposed South Kerry Greenway has been raised at an oral hearing on the project.

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell claimed if his client’s livestock wandered onto the greenway, the farmers would be liable for any damage caused.

Inspector Karla McBride sought clarity from Kerry County Council on the matter as she said she was under the impression that the council would be liable.

Denis O’Connor said he and the landowners had been told the greenway would be insured.

Kerry County Council’s response to Mr O’Connor’s submission on the CPO states: “The greenway is a public road and the insurances that are in place for the public road network as it stands will extend to the route.”

Barrister for Kerry County Council, Esmond Keane said the council would retain ownership of fencing on the greenway, which is being developed under the Roads Act, and would be responsible for its maintenance.

In relation to liability with livestock, Mr Keane pointed to the Animals Act of 1985.

(2) (a) Where damage is caused by an animal straying from unfenced land on to a public road, a person who placed the animal on the land shall not be regarded as having committed a breach of the duty to take care by reason only of placing it there if—

(i) the land is situated in an area where fencing is not customary, and

(ii) he had a right to place the animal on that land.

(b) In this subsection “fencing” includes the construction of any obstacle designed to prevent animals from straying, and “unfenced” shall be construed accordingly.

Barrister Michael O’Donnell told the hearing that his client, Seamus Walsh had made an agreement with Kerry County Council in relation to lands needed for the greenway and then without notice he received a CPO notice.

Kerry County Council engineer, Tom Sheehy agreed that this was an oversight on the council’s behalf and accepted that Mr Walsh should have been notified in advance.

Mr Sheehy said the CPO related to different land and the agreement with Mr Walsh was made at a time when there was no CPO.

Mr Walsh, who is a sheep farmer, said he identified an issue about flooding on his land two years ago in his submission to An Bord Pleanala but no design drawing has been provided by the council for a new culvert.

Council barrister, Esmond Keane told the hearing the culvert will be designed how Project Manager Conor Culloo described.

Council engineer, Tom Sheehy said the greenway won’t exacerbate the volume of water on Mr Walsh’s lands in anyway.

Mr Walsh said if the greenway is granted there will be two public roads through his lands and this will add huge difficulty for him when it comes to moving his sheep.

Project Manager, Conor Culloo agreed with Mr Walsh that the greenway section on his land was at least 8 metres wide.

Mr Walsh noted that is wider than the tarmac section of the N70 Ring of Kerry road.

Mr Culloo said the greenway, which has a three metre wide pavement, is wider at that section to allow for slopes for drainage.

The oral hearing is not sitting on Wednesday as Manor West Hotel, Tralee is not available. It will resume on Thursday at 9.30.

-THURSDAY 21st NOVEMBER 2019-

The oral hearing on the proposed south Kerry Greenway is entering its final two days.

This morning, the An Bord Pleanala hearing will resume at Manor West Hotel, Tralee.

Following almost four weeks of evidence, the oral hearing on the proposed greenway is due to finish tomorrow.

This week, An Bord Pleanala Inspector Karla McBride is examining the CPO application.

17 landowners, whose holdings would be severed by the greenway, are scheduled to outline their concerns and objections this week; on Tuesday five farmers gave evidence, the hearing didn’t sit yesterday as the hotel room was booked for an event.

Among the concerns already outlined by landowners are the impact on farming practices, flooding risk and insurance liability.

The remaining twelve landowners will begin their evidence from 9.30 this morning.

A landowner has told an oral hearing that his farming days are really over if the proposed South Kerry Greenway goes ahead. Christy and Mary McDonnell run a suckler and sheep farm at Lisbawn; the proposed greenway would cross their driveway about 60 metres from the main N70 Ring of Kerry road.

Mr McDonnell said the greenway would make a massive change to his life as he is so used to moving around his farm freely; he said he might have to cross the greenway up to 30 times a day.

Kerry County Council told the hearing this is a priority crossing favouring the McDonnells; there will be chicanes and signage in place advising cyclists they must yield.

Council barrister Esmond Keane said in the event of a crash if the cyclist failed to yield they would presumably be found liable.

Gates that fold back onto the greenway would be provided and could be closed to get animals from one side to another.

In terms of livestock getting onto the greenway, the council said the test would be reasonable care and there would be no need for Mr McDonnell to lock the gate across his driveway permanently.

However, Mr McDonnell’s barrister, Michael O’Donnell said if reasonable care is the test applied you could never rely on that defence if you allowed the gates open on the greenway.

Mr McDonnell said he and another farmer use the proposed route to drive sheep in for dipping; the council said dogs would be allowed on the greenway on a leash but sheep would not be.

Mr McDonnell said if the greenway goes ahead his farming days are really over.

Kerry County Council has utterly refuted a claim made by an elderly farmer that he was told to cooperate with the south Kerry Greenway route or his land would be subject to CPO.

Suckler and sheep farmer at Droum West, James Dominic Moriarty told the hearing the proposed greenway would be 30 metres from his back door and pass 12 metres above his home leading to concerns about privacy.

He claimed the local authority backtracked on an agreement that the greenway was to be rerouted along the N70 and he became so sick of the council he refused it permission to survey his lands.

Mr Moriarty claimed two council engineers told him if he didn’t co-operate the lands would be subject to CPO; this was utterly refuted by the council.

He claimed he had been bad mouthed by the council and this led to bad feeling in the community.

Mr Moriarty said he began to refuse registered letters and one day a stranger, who he claimed was later identified as an agent of Kerry County Council, called to his door.

The caller said it would be in Mr Moriarty’s interest to read the letters he had and was trying to push in the backdoor; Mr Moriarty said a scuffle ensued and he fell.

Kerry County Council barrister, Esmond Keane put it to Mr Moriarty that there had been consultations with him over the years, adding that as he had refused registered letters it was necessary for someone to call to the house to serve court documents.

The council said the land offered by the farmer was not suitable and that an agreement was not made.

A recap of some of the evidence heard on Thursday 21st Nov

Christy and Mary McDonnell from Lisbawn run a suckler and sheep farm.

The proposed greenway would cross their driveway about 60 metres from the main N70 Ring of Kerry road.

Mr McDonnell told the hearing the greenway would make a massive change to his life as he is so used to moving around his farm freely; he said he might have to cross the greenway up to 30 times a day.

Kerry County Council told the hearing this is a priority crossing on the greenway meaning the McDonnells would have priority over users of the greenway.

Mr McDonnell and his wife are part of the Kerry Social Farming Project and bring two people with special needs to their farm twice a week; the raised concerns as the participants can’t be left alone for any amount of time.

The council said there would be no change to the existing operation at the crossing; there would be chicanes and signage in place advising cyclists that they must yield.

When asked if a bike runs into a car at the crossing who is responsible, council barrister Esmond Keane said if the cyclist failed to yield they would presumably be found liable in that instance.

The council said cattle grids were not considered appropriate on the greenway as they present difficulties for certain users.

Gates that fold back onto the greenway would be provided that can be opened or closed at the discretion of the landowner, Project Manager Conor Culloo said the gates would be closed to get animals from one side to another.

Mr McDonnell raised concerns about liability if his livestock got onto the greenway.

The council said the test would be reasonable care and there would be no need for Mr McDonnell to lock the gate across his driveway permanently.

However, Mr McDonnell’s barrister, Michael O’Donnell said if reasonable care is the test applied you could never rely on that defence if you allowed the gates open on the greenway.

Kerry County Council also apologised for referencing Mrs McDonnell’s late father in a site notice; the hearing was told this was very upsetting for Mrs McDonnell.

Mr McDonnell said if the greenway goes ahead his farming would be limited and his farming days are really over.

James Dominic Moriarty told the hearing he has a suckler and sheep farm in Droum West.

He said he has spent considerable money reclaiming the land, which is very steep.

The proposed greenway would be 30 metres from his back door and pass 12 metres above his home leading to concerns about privacy.

Barrister for Mr Moriarty, Michael O’Donnell raised concerns about noise levels during construction; he said his client and his wife have a vulnerability and sensitivity to noise.

Kerry County Council said construction at the site would take six to eight weeks and mitigation measures regarding noise would be put in place including barriers.

Mr Moriarty claimed he had been treated very badly by Kerry County Council.

He said the first proposal made by the local authority when they came to his door was CPO.

He claimed he had been bad mouthed by the council and this led to bad feeling in the community; he alleged the council declared he was to blame for the rerouting of the project.

He said he provided three options and there was an agreement made with Kerry County Council to reroute along the main N70.

He claimed the local authority backtracked on this agreement and he became so sick of the council he refused it permission to survey his lands.

He claimed a council employee told him if he didn’t co-operate the lands would be subject to CPO.

Mr Moriarty said he began to refuse registered letters and one day a stranger, who he claimed was later identified as an agent of Kerry County Council, called to his door.

The caller said it would be in Mr Moriarty’s interest to read the letters he had; Mr Moriarty said a scuffle ensued and he fell inside the backdoor.

Kerry County Council barrister Esmond Keane put it to Mr Moriarty that there had been consultations with him over the years adding that as he had refused registered letters it was necessary for someone to call to the house to serve court documents.

The council utterly refuted that Mr Moriarty was told to give it the land or it will be CPO’d.

The council said the land offered by the farmer was not suitable and that an agreement was not made.

Mr Moriarty’s son-in law, James Smith, who lives close-by, told the hearing their driveway is the steepest in Kerry.

He said it is just a gravel surface as tarmac would be too dangerous in icy conditions.

Mr Smith said if he met someone crossing on the greenway and had to stop he would need to reverse back down to level ground to get his jeep going again due to the gradient.

He said it is extremely dangerous.

John Anthony Moriarty keeps suckler cattle and grows silage on his farm at Droum Lower.

It is proposed the greenway will cut through one of his fields, which was described as his best by his barrister, Michael O’Donnell.

The council said it wanted to get back to a point where the former railway line was intact.

Mr O’Donnell accused the council of slavishly following the old railway line; however the council said Mr Moriarty said the only option he would be happy with would be along the N70 Ring of Kerry road.

 

Mr Moriarty said he didn’t believe that holding pens for cattle being proposed as a mitigation measure by the council would work.

Agronomist for the council, Diarmuid O’Sullivan said moving cattle into the holding pen and across the greenway shouldn’t take long; the gates beside the pen would block the greenway while the cattle move across.

Mr Moriarty, who has around twenty animals, said the problem would be getting the cattle into the pens while there are people passing on the greenway.

He said there is a wilder side to some animals, especially when it comes to strangers who may be cycling and wearing coloured clothing.

The council said cattle grids were deemed unsafe for cyclists on the greenway as the bike could slip and it came up with the holding pens, which it will provide if landowners want.

Responding to a question about effluent from the cattle, agronomist, Diarmuid O’Sullivan said the animals should only be in the pen for minutes; he told the hearing he doesn’t have any of those holding pens on his farm.

Project Manager, Conor Culloo said farmers will be notified if a watermain is broken during construction and there is provision for continuity of supply.

He said the repairs would take a matter of minutes; barrister Michael O’Donnell said Kerry County Council doesn’t do anything within a matter of minutes.

Thomas Moriarty is a cattle farmer from Droum West.

Council agronomist Diarmuid O’Sullivan said he didn’t survey Mr Moriarty’s farm as he wasn’t told to by Fehily Timoney who were employed by Kerry County Council.

An access road is subject to the CPO on a temporary basis.

Mike Garvey is a suckler and sheep farmer at Tullig.

He said six generations of his family has farmed the land there.

The proposed greenway would go straight through his land on the original line of the railway, which is 200 metres from the public road.

Due to the current make-up of the farm, if the greenway goes ahead it will be divided into five sections.

He says this will fragment his farm further and will devalue it.

He said private screening for his sheep pin proposed by Kerry County Council would not be suitable due to the potential for strong winds at the site.

He also had concerns about dipping and spraying sheep beside the greenway.

Mr Garvey said there is a lot of divide in the community which the landowners are a big part of.

It is divided due to the council’s approach to the project, said Mr Garvey.

What is to stop the council coming again for more land if the greenway CPO is granted, he asked.

Agronomist for the council, Diarmuid O’Sullivan said there will be changes to Mr Garvey’s farming enterprises as a result of the greenway.

Barrister for Mr Garvey, Michael O’Donnell put it to Mr O’Sullivan that his client’s farm would no longer be viable and the magnificent landscape created by six generations will be wiped out.

Mr O’Sullivan said he can understand the worries and that it would be an inconvenience for Mr Garvey but didn’t accept the greenway would undermine the farm’s viability.

Mr Garvey also raised concerns about the holding pens for cattle which are proposed by the council as a mitigation measure.

Mr Garvey said he would welcome anyone to come and try put suckler cows into a pen beside a roadway.

They are not statues, they are cows, he said.

Agronomist Diarmuid O’Sullivan said farmers would have to make huge adjustments but said animals do adjust.

 

-Friday 22nd November 2019-

Today is the final day of the oral hearing.

A farmer has claimed that holding pens for cattle along the proposed South Kerry Greenway won’t work.

John Anthony Moriarty keeps suckler cattle and grows silage on his farm at Droum Lower; it’s proposed the greenway will cut through his best field.

His barrister, Michael O’Donnell accused the council of slavishly following the old railway line; however the council said Mr Moriarty said the only option he would be happy with would be along the N70 Ring of Kerry road.

Mr Moriarty said he didn’t believe that holding pens for cattle being proposed as a mitigation measure by the council would work.

Agronomist for the council, Diarmuid O’Sullivan said moving cattle into the holding pen and across the greenway shouldn’t take long; the gates beside the pen would block the greenway while the cattle move across.

Mr Moriarty, who has around twenty animals, said the problem would be getting the cattle into the pens while there are people passing on the greenway.

He said there is a wilder side to some animals, especially when it comes to strangers who may be cycling and wearing coloured clothing.

The council said cattle grids were deemed unsafe for cyclists on the greenway as bikes could slip and it came up with the holding pens, which it will provide if landowners want.

Responding to a question about effluent from the cattle, agronomist, Diarmuid O’Sullivan said the animals should only be in the pen for minutes; he told the hearing he doesn’t have any of those holding pens on his farm.

This is the final day of An Bord Pleanala’s hearing on the proposed South Kerry Greenway at the Manor West Hotel.

Over the past four weeks, Inspector Karla McBride has heard evidence from Kerry County Council, supporters and objectors.

The hearing was split into two modules; the first three weeks dealt with the development application itself and the final week focused on the application for a Compulsory Purchase Order for the lands needed for the scheme.

Jim Sheahan is a cattle and sheep farmer at Droum Lower and Curra.

Mr Sheahan told Inspector McBride he is more concerned now about the proposed greenway since the hearing began.

He said he is terrified of insurance and compensation claims that could be brought against him.

Mr Sheahan said he has always kept the door open with Kerry County Council but he objects to the Compulsory Purchase Order.

Mr Sheahan said the whole thing has upset him and his wife deeply.

He said he told council engineer, Tom Sheehy to do away with the CPO and he may make more headway with him and his neighbours.

He said the CPO is toxic to him.

Mr Sheahan said you could expect anything from the British but when Kerry County Council does this to its own people then it lost support.

He said there are many more people opposed to the CPO than the Greenway Information Group but they don’t want to show their hand.

Mr Sheahan said they are not insular people and he couldn’t stress enough the upset and lack of sleep this has caused.

He said whatever understanding he had with the council was destroyed when the council took him and three other landowners to court earlier this year seeking warrants to access the lands; those warrants weren’t granted.

Mr Sheahan said the case gave the impression to the whole county that the four landowners were against the project and it severed friendships he has had since he became an adult.

He said smart comments have been passed about him in the community.

Mr Sheahan said he doesn’t care what people think of him, his gut tells him the whole thing is wrong.

He said he was upset by the attitude of council barrister, Esmond Keane who said landowners would have to clean up whatever rubbish would be left behind while crossing his land, referring to the greenway route.

Mr Sheahan received a round of applause from the public gallery following his evidence.

Friday 22nd November 2019

This is the final day of An Bord Pleanala’s hearing on the proposed South Kerry Greenway at the Manor West Hotel.

Over the past four weeks, Inspector Karla McBride has heard evidence from Kerry County Council, supporters and objectors.

The hearing was split into two modules; the first three weeks dealt with the development application itself and the final week focused on the application for a Compulsory Purchase Order for the lands needed for the scheme.

Jim Sheahan is a cattle and sheep farmer at Droum Lower and Curra.

Mr Sheahan told Inspector McBride he is more concerned now about the proposed greenway since the hearing began.

He said he is terrified of insurance and compensation claims that could be brought against him.

Mr Sheahan said he has always kept the door open with Kerry County Council but he objects to the Compulsory Purchase Order.

Mr Sheahan said the whole thing has upset him and his wife deeply.

He said he told council engineer, Tom Sheehy to do away with the CPO and he may make more headway with him and his neighbours.

He said the CPO is toxic to him.

Mr Sheahan said you could expect anything from the British but when Kerry County Council does this to its own people then it lost support.

He said there are many more people opposed to the CPO than the Greenway Information Group but they don’t want to show their hand.

Mr Sheahan said they are not insular people and he couldn’t stress enough the upset and lack of sleep this has caused.

He said whatever understanding he had with the council was destroyed when the council took him and three other landowners to court earlier this year seeking warrants to access the lands; those warrants weren’t granted.

Mr Sheahan said the case gave the impression to the whole county that the four landowners were against the project and it severed friendships he has had since he became an adult.

He said smart comments have been passed about him in the community.

Mr Sheahan said he doesn’t care what people think of him, his gut tells him the whole thing is wrong.

He said he was upset by the attitude of council barrister, Esmond Keane who said landowners would have to clean up whatever rubbish would be left behind while crossing his land, referring to the greenway route.

Mr Sheahan received a round of applause from the public gallery following his evidence.

 

Jeremiah Coffey is a sheep farmer at Ballydarrig, Caherciveen.

Mr Coffey claimed the greenway would add 50 hours extra for one cut of silage on his land as it would make it more labour intensive; he also said it would mean he would have to move his animals more frequently.

Mr Coffey said he was concerned about the use and longevity of wooden fencing along the greenway especially when it came to bigger animals; he claimed Kerry County Council told him there wasn’t a budget for concrete fencing.

He said he was concerned there could be an increase in his insurance premium.

Mr Coffey said there would be a greater difficulty in moving his sheep with the greenway as they have a mind of their own and could become nervous and bolt when people are passing on the route.

Mr Coffey said the Greenway Information Group is for the greenway and wants to see it come to south Kerry but they don’t want to be bullied into it and the community came together.

He said he wants concerns of landowners to be listened to by An Bord Pleanala and wants to see the project done in a fashion that doesn’t destroy the lives of people living on the route.

There is a way forward for the greenway, he said, but it is not ploughing through people’s lands.

Closing statements at the end of module two

Barrister for the Greenway Information Group, Michael O’Donnell said Inspector Karla McBride should consider the lands subject to CPO, the design of the greenway scheme and the Environmental Impact Assessment Report together.

Mr O’Donnell said it wouldn’t be acting appropriately to consider them separately.

Mr O’Donnell said the Inspector would also have to consider all of the objections raised.

He said the scheme is not necessary and its need has not been established.

Is it appropriate, he asked, to CPO land and cause damage to landowners to provide an amenity?

Mr O’Donnell said there is a balance in taking land from a citizen versus the effect on the citizen; if the effect is not proportionate, the land shouldn’t be taken.

He said the council has a duty to establish that the acquisition is fair and necessary and that it has carried out all due diligence to ensure it is appropriate.

He said if you destroy the agricultural economy of this area you do exactly the opposite of what this scheme intends; the entire basis of life in this area is undermined.

He said the Inspector has no option but to refuse to confirm the CPO and the scheme.

Barrister for Kerry County Council, Esmond Keane said there is a small amount of outstanding objections and none of those appear to challenge the need for the scheme.

He said the scheme has public health, safety and environmental protection benefits.

The need for the lands has been identified, lands suitable for the scheme and the road development is wholly compliant with the County Development Plan, Local Area Plan, regional and national policies.

The greenway is entirely necessary for the sustainable development and proper planning of the area.

Significant efforts have been made to meet the concerns of landowners which include localised narrowing of the greenway.

The proposed road scheme is the optimal design, will improve connectivity, be environmentally friendly and provide an essential nucleus for job creation and the retention of young people in the area.

He said the impact on landowners is recognised and appreciated but there is little to be said for shoehorning the scheme in beside the N70 or other roads as it wouldn’t achieve such an attractive facility as is being proposed.

He said it is not correct to say a CPO can’t be used for an amenity.

He said if the CPO was refused the council would be left open to be held to ransom or to be entirely frustrated by categorical objectors who could hold up the project.