An Bord Pleanála won’t fight legal challenge to new Dursey Island cable car from environmentalist group

The existing cable car to Dursey Island

Tim Healy

An Bord Pleanála intends to concede in a challenge to its grant of planning permission for the development of a new cable car system between Cork’s Beara Peninsula and Dursey Island, the High Court has heard.

Approval was granted last November to Cork County Council for the decommissioning of the existing cableway structure and the construction of a two-way cableway line with operating stations, mainland exhibition centre, a café and a car park.

The current cableway facilitates a single six-person cable car used by some 20,400 visitors each year, according to planning documents. However, it is closed for maintenance until November.

The High Court heard on Monday that the board would not be defending the judicial review action brought by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), which was initiated earlier this year.

Barrister Aoife Carroll, for the board, said the parties needed some time to consider the terms of final orders they would request. This may result in the planning application being remitted to the board for fresh consideration, the court heard.

In its court action seeking for the planning permission to be quashed, FIE argued the environment where the infrastructure was to be built was “highly sensitive” with the Beara Peninsula special protection area (SPA) for birds encompassing both the island and mainland sides.

FIE, represented by O’Connell & Clarke Solicitors, challenged the board’s grant of permission on several domestic and European grounds.

Among its grounds was a claim the board “erred” in concluding the development would not adversely affect the integrity of European sites when this allegedly could not have been ascertained beyond reasonable scientific doubt.

It also alleged the board did not scientifically justify its reasons for setting a monthly limit of 5,000 visitors and said the estimated 60,000 annual visitors is a “very significant increase” in traffic to Dursey Island.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys adjourned the matter for two weeks to hear submissions on final orders.