Uproar at council go-ahead for donkey sanctuary near ancient site
A REVIEW is under way into how a local authority gave the go-ahead for a donkey sanctuary near one of the country's most significant archaeological sites.
Kerry County Council had given the green light for the development on behalf of Dutch animal welfare organisation, Stichting Diereneelzijn, at Ballyhoneen, Cloghane, in west Kerry. The council confirmed the development did not require planning permission because it was classified as an agriculture building.
The Sunday Independent has learnt that no archaeological assessment was carried out by the council on the proposed works even though it is located close to Loch a'Duin, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) with more than 90 stone structures that date back to the Bronze Age.
The site where the development is located at Ballyhoneen is not part of the SAC but the surrounding area and the river are.
Already work has begun with the laying of foundations and sewerage pipes for an agricultural shed at the site.
Construction of a wall also began last Thursday.
The council said it "accessed the request" from the landowner "under a number of criteria including archaeology".
The development has caused uproar in Cloghane and Brandon because of the archaeological significance of the area. Locals only learned of the development earlier this week, as the developer was not required to put up a public notice.
Kerry County Council confirmed it was investigating the matter after its planning department received a complaint from a member of the public.
A statement said that based on the information received by the council and the nature of the development, a certificate of exemption was issued, confirming the development "did not require planning permission".
The statement added: "An initial inspection of the site has been undertaken by the council's planning staff and the county archaeologist to determine if the development is being carried out in accordance with the exemption issued. We will be carrying out further detailed inspections and surveys in the coming days and will be in contact with the developer in relation to the matter."
The matter has also been referred to the National Monuments Section of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Loch a'Duin valley contains 90 stone structures including a number of fulachta fiadh, ancient eating places, and 12km of pre-bog field walls dating from the Bronze Age (2000-5000BC).
Archaeologists say the site is of both national and international significance and have compared it with the Ceide Fields in north Mayo.
Local resident Eoghan O Loinsigh said the National Parks and Wildlife Service had only been informed of the development last Thursday.
It is now assessing the situation. "You can hardly see the sign of a human hand in Loch a'Duin and it's beyond belief that a development like this was allowed go ahead at all," Mr O Loinsigh said.