Rarely-spotted slug would suffer 'unmitigated noise disturbance' from Greenway hearing told

The Kerry Greenway is designed for 1,500 cyclists and walkers a day
The Kerry Greenway is designed for 1,500 cyclists and walkers a day

Anne Lucey

The Kerry slug will suffer from “unmitigated noise disturbance” and habitat loss in the construction of the 32km South Kerry Greenway, a hearing in Tralee was told today.

Measures to protect the Kerry Slug, a protected species, were outlined at the An Bord Pleanala oral hearing into the Kerry Greenway this morning.

Because the Kerry slug is listed in Annex IV of the habitats directive, it is strictly protected from injury, or disturbance or damage to any breeding or resting place wherever it occurs, ecologists for Kerry County Council have explained.

Any disturbance requires licences from the Department of Culture and the Gaeltacht.

The rare spotted slug, Geomalachus maculosus, is protected under the EU habitats directive and the Irish Wildlife Acts.

The Kerry slug will suffer from “unmitigated noise disturbance” and habitat loss in the construction of the 32km South Kerry Greenway, Muiread Kelly, senior ecologist with Malachy Walsh and Partners for the council said.

The slug with relatives in Portugal has been found only in Cork and Kerry until recently when it emerged in Connemara and is one of the southwest’s Iberian species.

“The loss of 2,100 metres square of suitable rock habitat at Drung Hill to facilitate the placement of rock gabions is expected to have a permanent moderate to significant negative impact on the Kerry slug in the absence of mitigation. There is potential, during the construction phase for direct mortality to occur, which is considered a temporary moderate to significant negative impact,” Ms Kelly, said.

A like for like habitat has been identified and a license for pre-construction studies, trapping, hand searches and translocation has been granted by the department of Culture, Heritage, she said.

According to the detail of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report suitable habitats along the route are fairly limited because it is managed land.

However seven Kerry slugs were observed on exposed rocks and boulders to the east of the north tunnel on Drung Hill at Mountain Stage on November 28, 2014 when traps set by the ecologists were being retrieved.

And five Kerry slugs were found in an area of wet heath southwest of the Gleesk viaduct.

The hearing this morning has heard of “a lack of  distrust which has arisen between landowners and the council” -  and the Kerry slug has been impacted. Initially, 10 areas were identified to be surveyed  but landowners refused permission, it has emerged.

Ms Kelly’s colleague ecologist Patrick Ryan gave further evidence on Wednesday. He was asked about a “novel approach” involving yoghurt. Yoghurt is to be painted on rocks for the slug’s benefit.

100pc of the rocks at Drung Hill were to be painted in yoghurt, but the National Parks and Wildlife who vetted the ecologists reports said painting 50pc of the rocks in yoghurt would be sufficient, Mr Ryan said.

The yoghurt would encourage lichen to grow and there will be a very comprehensive post construction monitoring programme of the yoghurt for three years, he said.

Unveiled in 2014, the greenway run into difficulties because of route design and the decision by the council to move to compulsory purchase order of the dozens of small land parcels  running through small farms along the N70 ring of Kerry.

The 3m wide paved surface for walkers and cyclists  mainly along the “abandoned” rail way, may take a year and a half to construct.

A roost site in a building for the lesser horsehoe bat has been identified  and the building is to be improved by the council,  “with the view to optimizing the roost and to encourage lesser horsehoe bats to return annually.”

And yesterday Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae, who is attending the hearing in Tralee said the best thing to do with the slug now would be” to fire him” into the sea at Renard.

“If the same amount of time and energy and expense was put into consulting with the landowners as to counting the slug, we might have no need for an oral hearing,” he said.

The council says the greenway is necessary to save the western Iveragh area from continuing depopulation. However farmers and the IFA nationally fear the use of the CPO instrument will set a precedent.

Designed for 1,500 cyclists and walkers a day, at peak periods like August the greenway will welcome almost 45,000 people a month, the hearing into both the planning and Compulsory Order purchase process for the greenway in Tralee was told.

Five car parks and toilet facilities are to be built. Two protected railway structures, Cahersiveen railway bridge and the Gleensk Viaduct as well as the Drung Hill tunnels will be repaired.

Rock armour and sea walls must also be carried out to halt coastal erosion Kerry county council engineer Conor Culloo outlined.

A bridge and boardwalk are among new structures in the design.

Mitigation measures by way of screening and overlooking of the under 30 residential properties affected by the greenway are being proposed.

The hearing in Tralee continues.

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