A STONE quay on scenic Castlemaine Estuary near Keel has been concreted over by Kerry County Council despite angry objections from local residents.
Laughtacallow Quay can be seen from the Keel Loop Walk and residents have revealed how they were reduced to tears when they saw the work carried out by the council late last week.
Forming Laughtacallow Quay Action Group, they say they're "angry, disappointed and devastated" at what they have termed a "blight" on the local beauty spot, claiming that the council has breached planning requirements and recklessly wasted taxpayers' money in the process.
"The Laughtacallow area is a Special Area of Conservation and all works in the area are subject to stringent planning procedures," group spokesperson Cecilia Kelliher stated.
"A local landowner was informed that, under the SAC, he would require planning permission or exemption to put a fence in the same area, so how can Kerry County Council do work of this magnitude without planning or exemption," she queried.
The group says it had the same fears last summer when similar works were proposed and, in July 2012, a petition was handed to Senior Executive Engineer Eamon Scanlon asking for the repair and restoration of the quay and objecting to it being concreted over. "At that stage we were told the quay would not be concreted over," Ms Kelliher continued.
A spokesperson for the council, meanwhile, revealed they had received a request from a local angling group to make improvements to the ferry ramp so it could be used for launching and landing boats.
"An objection was raised in relation to this on heritage grounds," the spokesperson stated, adding that a "temporary" solution has resulted in order to retain the heritage aspect.
"We have put in a temporary surface on the ramp, consisting of a thin layer of temporary concrete over a thick layer of plastic. This does two things: Firstly it protects what's underneath the plastic and secondly it will allow for easier removal of the concrete."
The council says it did not require planning permission to carry out the works as they are a temporary measure, while the Department of Arts, Heritage and The Gaeltacht has stated that officials from the NPWS had met with a council engineer prior to works commencing.
"The NPWS was satisfied that the works would have no impact on the qualifying interest for the SAC and so raised no objections to the works proceeding," a department spokesperson told The Kerryman.
The answers, though, haven't satisfied the local group which says that the work is not a thin layer but a "concrete mass" and has issued a new petition demanding the immediate removal of the concrete.
Funded by the Dept of the Marine, the job was carried out by KCC staff and cost between €6,000 and €7,000.