Kerry Greenway hearing may be adjourned due to ‘volume of errors’

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 Greenway hearing may be adjourned after hundreds of pages of new documentation and corrections were presented at the hearing.  

The barrister representing 25 landowners opposed to the compulsory purchase of their lands for a greenway cycleway in south Kerry has told the An Bord Pleanala hearing the board will be acting contrary to a 2014 European Directive and to Irish law if they do not grant an adjournment because of the volume of errors and changes to public documents by applicants for what will be the public roadway.

The dramatic application was strongly supported by leading environmentalist Peter Sweetman, whose interventions on the necessity for complete habitat studies in the case of the Galway bypass in 2012 partly led to the 2014 EU directive on Environmental Impact Assessments.

The hearing which began on Tuesday has heard already of a climate of “distrust” between council officials and some landowners, with claims of lack of consultation and a too early decision to move to CPO the lands which once formed the old Great Southern and Western Rail corridor.

The council has denied claims it has not consulted with properly, or listened to the concerns, and says it moved to the CPO in 2014/2015 with the backing of a majority of councillors when it could not reach agreement with all 200 landowners.

It is entitled to provide extra information during the hearing, Senior Council Esmond Keane said.

Michael O’Donnell barrister, instructed by Harrington Solicitors, Bantry, for landowners, the Greenway Information Group, said the council was seeking to extinguish his clients constitutional rights to their right to private property. The inviolability of their dwellings were at stake.

They had come to the hearing in Tralee in the hope of being able to fully participate. On day one, Tuesday, they were presented with “260 pages of new documentation”.

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They were also given a series of 100 pages of corrections and errata, some paragraphs long, altering the published environmental impact report.

There was no time to study and analyse the highly technical changes to hydrology reports in what was now acknowledged as an area of special conservation along the coast where works would take place.

Expert witnesses they had engaged said they could not proceed with their submissions in the light of the council’s acknowledged errors and changes, Mr O’Donnell said.

“My people are traumatised by this whole process. Their homes are going to be affected. Their property is going to be affected. They came here in the hope they will be able to make submissions that would deal with this matter and on the very first day of the hearing there had in effect been an ambush,” the barrister said.

His clients had already been brought to the District Court by the council seeking warrants for access to their lands and the council had been unsuccessful.

There was no blame or criticism of the board, he added.

Earlier former Ceann Comhairle and Kerry South TD John O’Donoghue who lives in Cahersiveen, said in an evocative speech of support for the project he recalled as a child the last train leaving South West Kerry.

The train did not just take people, it also took the dreams and aspirations of their descendants with it, he said.

What had then started as a trickle of emigration, had now become a torrent, the former minister who said he had represented the area for 30 years.

The greenway along the old rail line would represent a way back.

Chair of the hearing Bord Pleanala Inspector Karla McBride is to decide overnight on the application to adjourn.

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