Population decline in south Kerry was a factor in greenway project, court told

Two challenges made aimed at quashing permission on environmental grounds

The Gleesk Viaduct, which is part of the proposed greenway. File photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

The Gleesk Viaduct, which is part of the proposed greenway. File photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

Population decline was among the factors taken into account by Kerry County Council in seeking planning approval for a cycle and pedestrian greenway in south Kerry, the High Court has heard.

An inspector for An Bord Pleanála had concluded the census data advanced was “robust” and that conclusion stands, Brian Foley SC, for the board said on Thursday.

There was no legal error in considering population issues, he said. While the council had said population decline in the region formed part of the need for the greenway, that was not the only issue and the council had offered a “much wider” justification for the project.

Mr Foley also rejected arguments that, because the board granted permission for a greenway which excluded a proposed section between Cahersiveen and Renard, there was a requirement to consider additional environmental and road safety impacts.

Counsel further disputed that the board failed to advance reasons for the making of compulsory purchase orders over certain lands for the greenway.

Mr Foley, with David Browne BL, was outlining arguments opposing two legal challenges aimed at overturning the board’s permission for the project.

Kerry County Council sought permission for a 31.9km greenway between Glenbeigh and Renard.

The board granted permission last November for a greenway between Glenbeigh and just outside Cahersiveen, to run mainly along the disused route of the Southern and Western Railway, and including a 3m wide paved surface.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys is hearing two separate challenges aimed at quashing that permission.

One 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 and failed to ensure a system of strict protection for the Kerry slug and the Lesser Horseshoe bat in their natural range.

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.

The claims against the State will be subject of a separate module, for hearing in November.

In the landowners challenge, they raise issues about the process resulting in the confirmation of compulsory purchase orders for part of their lands.

The hearing continues on Friday.