A High Court judge has been urged to overturn permission for a cycle and pedestrian greenway in south Kerry on grounds including An Bord Pleanála's "fragmentation" of the project and its possible impact on the Kerry slug and a bat species.
Kerry County Council sought permission for a 31.9km greenway between Glenbeigh and Renard, but the permission granted by the board was for a greenway between Glenbeigh and just outside Cahersiveen, James Devlin SC said on Wednesday.
That amounted to “project splitting” because it excluded a proposed section running from outside Cahersiveen to Renard, he argued. The effect of the “project splitting”, done by the board without reference to the council, is that the impact of those changes had not been assessed, he said.
An Environmental Impact Assessment report and Natura Impact Statement compiled for the council concerning the greenway project did not address those changes, he said.
That was not the fault of the council, which had not been asked by the board to address the impact of those changes, he said.
The board’s decision to bring the greenway to “a premature end” means there has been no consideration of the effect of the fragmentation, including the environmental and road safety impact of cyclists and pedestrians continuing on other roads into Cahersiveen and from there to Renard, he said.
On Wednesday, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys began hearing two separate challenges aimed at quashing the board's permission granted last November.
The permission is for a greenway between Glenbeigh to outside Cahersiveen, to run mainly along the disused route of the Southern and Western Railway, and including a 3m wide paved surface.
One challenge is by a local farmer James Clifford and environmental activist Peter Sweetman.
The second is by a number of local landowners whose lands have been compulsorily acquired for the greenway.
The cases are against the board and various State parties, with the council as a notice party.
The grounds of challenge in the Clifford/Sweetman case include claims the permission contravenes EU directives on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Habitats.
It is claimed the permission failed to ensure a system of strict protection for the Kerry slug and the lesser horseshoe bat in their natural range.
Mr Devlin, with Michael O’Donnell SC and Margaret Heavey BL, for the applicants, said the concerns include that the slugs could be stamped on during greenway works. While the board disputes the slug is likely to be affected “to any significant extent” during the works, it is not clear what that means, he said.
The core claim against the State parties is of failure to transpose into Irish law an obligation to determine if a road should be made subject of an EIA.
In the landowners challenge, they raise issues about the process resulting in the confirmation of compulsory purchase orders for part of their lands.
In opposing the cases, the respondents maintain no grounds have been advanced to quash the permission. The board, represented by Brian Foley SC and David Browne BL, also maintains the "fragmentation" argument is overstated.
The cases continue on Thursday.