Kerry slug faces ‘unmitigated disturbance’ from greenway, hearing told

Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae said the best thing to do with the slug now would be ‘to fire him’ into the sea

Illustration: Michael Viney

Illustration: Michael Viney

 

The Kerry slug will suffer from “unmitigated noise disturbance” in the construction of the 32 km South Kerry Greenway, an oral hearing into the project has been told.

Plans for the greenway were unveiled five years ago but the project has run into difficulties because of route design and a decision by Kerry County Council to move to compulsory purchase order of the dozens of small land parcels running through small farms along the N70 ring of Kerry.

The three-metre wide paved surface for walkers and cyclists mainly along an abandoned railway may take 18 months to construct, the oral hearing into the project has been told.

The rare spotted slug, Geomalachus maculosus, protected under the EU habitats directive and the Irish Wildlife Act has been found in numbers at two locations, one rock and one heath.

A roost site in a building for the lesser horsehoe bat has also been identified and the building is to be improved “with the view to optimising the roost and to encourage lesser horsehoe bats to return annually”.

While most species in the scenic and protected area will be unaffected – the Kerry slug will suffer from “unmitigated noise disturbance,” and will have to be picked up and moved, a presentation on ecology heard.

“The loss of 2,100 metres square of suitable rock habitat at Drung Hill to facilitate the placement of rock gabions is expected to have a permanent moderate to significant negative impact on the Kerry slug in the absence of mitigation.

“There is potential, during the construction phase for direct mortality to occur, which is considered a temporary moderate to significant negative impact,” Muriead Kelly, senior ecologist with Malachy Walsh and Partners on behalf of Kerry County Council said.

A like for like habitat has been identified and a license for pre-construction studies , trapping, hand searches and translocation has been granted by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, she said.

The hearing on Wednesday heard of “a lack of trust which has arisen between landowners and the council” — and the Kerry slug had been impacted. Initially, ten areas were identified to be surveyed but landowners refused permission, it has emerged.

‘Yoghurt paint’

Ms Kelly’s colleague ecologist Patrick Ryan gave further evidence on Wednesday. He was asked about a “novel approach” involving yoghurt, which was to be painted on rocks for the slug’s benefit.

All of the rocks at Drung Hill were to be painted in yoghurt, but the National Parks and Wildlife Service which vetted the ecologists’ reports said painting 50 per cent of the rocks in yoghurt would be sufficient, Mr Ryan said.

The yoghurt would encourage lichen to grow and there would be a very comprehensive post-construction monitoring programme of the yoghurt for three years, he said.

Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae, who is attending the hearing in Tralee said the best thing to do with the slug now would be “to fire him” into the sea at Renard.

“If the same amount of time and energy and expense was put into consulting with the landowners as to counting the slug, we might have no need for an oral hearing,” he said.

Last year the slug’s presence in a sessile oakwood led to the realigning of the design of the Macroom bypass, considered vital to access to Kerry.

The slug with relatives in Portugal has been found only in Cork and Kerry until recently when it emerged in Connemara and is one of the southwest’s Iberian species.

Designed for 1,500 cyclists and walkers a day at peak periods like August, the greenway will welcome almost 45,000 people a month, the hearing into both the planning and compulsory order purchase (CPO) process was told.

An annual minimum payment of €300 euro is being offered as well as €2 a metre for the length running through the greenway is being offered.

The hearing, attended by over 100 people, is expected to continue to next week. There are 40 objectors listed, including the Irish Farmers’ Association, which fears the use of the CPO instrument for an amenity will set a precedent.