Howth gate decision angers hillwalkers

Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 00:00

The erection of a gate on a traditional walkers’ pathway on Howth Head is being challenged by local people.

Regular walkers in the area are angry at a decision by Fingal County Council not to take action over the matter.

Members of the Howth Pathways group have formally asked the council to reconsider its decision that the newly erected gate, 170m from Heather Cottage on East Mountain, is an exempt development.

The request under section 5 of the Planning and Development Act is the first step in a process which could see An Bord Pleanála being asked to determine whether the gate and piers in an area covered by a special area amenity order are in breach of planning laws.

Former member of Fingal County Council and a member of Howth Pathways David Healy said hillwalkers had traditionally enjoyed access to hundreds of acres of heathland at East Mountain, with panoramic views over the Irish Sea.

One of these routes links Upper Cliff Road with the cliff walk around Howth Head. About halfway along this route is Heather Cottage, a stone clad, five-bedroom house that was completed by Treasury Holdings in 2004.


However, since new residents Gerardine Connolly and Patrick O’Reilly took possession of the house in late 2010, locals say new fencing and a gate have been put up and signs erected declaring the area to be “private”.

They say floodlighting and CCTV were also installed, but this was subsequently removed.

Howth Pathways claims the pathway was planted with daffodils and other non-native species, apparently overlooking a planning ban on non-native species.

The walkers say the effect has been to suburbanise the heathland and turn what they see as a traditional pathway into a private access driveway.

Contacted by The Irish Times this week, Mr O’Reilly said he was aware of the moves by Howth Pathways and was “anxiously awaiting an outcome as this matter has caused me some degree of stress and anxiety”.

However, Mr O’Reilly said he was not allowed to make submissions to the council on the issue.

He said as the matter was being deliberated upon by the council it was sub-judice and he was prevented on commenting on the issues Howth Pathways had raised.

Mr Healy said the walkers were hopeful the council would reverse its finding that “there is no enforcement action open to the council”.

In a report for the council, Fingal planning inspector Paddy Hughes said under legislation “some types of development” in the Howth special amenity area were exempted developments, ie they do not require planning permission. Included within those works were “the construction, erection, renewal or replacement of any gate or gateway provided the height does not exceed two metres”.

However, Mr Healy told The Irish Times “that decision is based on a determination that the roadway is not a right of way and we are determined to protect the rights of way”.