Newsletter 50 Spring 2014
Labour should be ashamed
The word in Leinster House is that the Bill brought before the Dail by Labour TD Robert Dowds last June will not even be discussed until after the May local and EU elections.
The modest proposal to just slightly improve Ireland’s lamentable access laws is considered far too controversial to be put up for debate before we vote.
This is despite the fact that you, dear reader, have more right to go walking in Scotland, England, Spain – just about anywhere in Europe – than you do in your own country.
Brendan Howlin, the Labour Party’s Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, told the Dail back in June that the party will not be rocking the coalition boat on the issue- even though Robert Dowds sought to introduce his modest proposal following encouragement from another Labour Cabinet member, Education Mininster Ruari Quinn, a member of KIO.
We have learned to expect the worst from Fianna Fail and Fine Gael on public access, but Labour’s spinelessness on an issue that was largely solved by the British Labour Party as far back as the 1940’s really is disappointing.
Labour should hang their heads in shame.
Don’t forget your AGM
Keep Ireland Open’s Annual General Meeting will be held at An Oige’s headquarters, 61 Mountjoy Street , Dublin 7 on Saturday April 26. Tea and coffee will be served at 11 and the meeting proper will begin at 11.30. Come along. Bring a friend. Give us your ideas as to how we can more effectively campaign on your behalf for better access to the Irish countryside, its seashores, lakeshores, riverbanks, mountains and national monuments. Have your say!
Battle on to block island fencing
Scarring the landscape: ugly fencing on Fenit Island
KEEP Ireland Open is on a collision course with Kerry County Council over planners’ inexplicable decision to allow landowners to replace ugly fencing which he was using to block access to scenic Fenit Island in Co Kerry.
The council has failed to apply its own planning regulations over the fencing and appears to be in a quandary as to how to explain this failure.
We intend appealing the council’s decision to An Bord Pleanala unless they fulfil their statutory duties by requiring the landowners, Ennis solicitor Seamus T O’Sullivan and locals John Murphy and Kathleen McCarthy, to apply for necessary planning permission, to which the public could object.
Much of the ugly chain-link fencing, part of which was electrified, was washed away in the recent storms. It has been at the centre of a bitter local dispute since it was erected around the island in several phases over the past five years. The fencing is said locally to have cost more than €150,000 and its partial replacement will cost tens of thousands more.
The spectaculary beautiful small island, with its walks along a breathtaking shoreline and to the ruins of its ancient castle (a National Monument site) has, since 2009, been scarred by an epidemic of heavy duty fencing, gates and threatening signs.
Nasty notices have been placed around the island
Much of the fencing is more like what might surround an industrial complex in a high crime urban area rather than what is normally found in a quiet area of small farms and natural beauty.
The landowners, who erected the industrial-type barriers to keep the public off the island, are said by locals to be tendering locally for fencing contractors to replace the sections damaged by huge storms at the start of the year. The landowners have been waging a campaign over several years to block access to Fenit Island , which was traditionally open to walkers, anglers and bird-watchers.
KIO has long been puzzled as to why Kerry County Council permitted the original erection of the fencing when planning laws from 2001 and 2010 clearly require that a planning application and environmental impact assessment be made before fencing can be erected in scenic areas and in places traditionally open to public access. Now, in response to repeated queries from KIO, the council has stated in writing that it believes that the fencing was an exempt development and therefore did not covered by the planning regulations.
KIO believes this is nonsense. The area is clearly one of exceptional natural beauty and dozens of locals and visitors have provided affidavits testifying that the island was entirely open until the recent rash of fences went up.
We have informed the council that we intend to appeal their ‘no planning needed’ decision to An Bord Pleanala and have paid the €80 fee required for what is known as a Section 5 determination in which the council must state clearly in writing the reasons for their ruling.
KIO’s decision to challenge Kerry County Council on the issue follows on from two recent victories in which Mayo County Council has had its unwillingness to enforce the law on fencing and access heavily criticised by An Bord. Both cases arose out of disputes over blockages in scenic areas close to Killary Harbour . In one case, a fence was erected blocking a long-standing path at Corragaun. In another, a large boulder was used to block access at Silver Strand.
In response to KIO’s appeal, A Bord Pleanala inspector has ruled that the council has failed to apply planning law and should have demanded that planning applications be made.
This is good news for those seeking access to Fenit but Mayo County Council have yet to respond to An Bord’s ruling… For further news on how they and Kerry County Council are failing to live up to their statutory responsibilities to protect access to your natural heritage, watch this space.
Beacon of confusion on the Head
The lighthouse before access was blocked off
KIO received the following email from Jim Richardson in the US : When I brought my family over from South Carolina in June, we walked to the lighthouse on Sheep’s Head, only to find that the Commissioners of Irish Lights have now put up a menacing no-trespassing sign. It’s about 200 meters before you reach the lighthouse.
I have written to the Director of Lights about this and received an unsatisfactory response. (She did thank me, however, for pointing out that tourist websites – including some run by the government – continue to lure unsuspecting tourists to the lighthouse. Maybe that’s why they call it sheep’s head!) Jim Richardson, 1229 Lincoln Street ,
Columbia , SC 29201
A very long Kerry joke
The reeks are among our most iconic mountains but, even after five years of haggling, public access is not secure
If you want to see why KIO remains convinced that the “only by agreement” approach to public access does not work, consider the case of the MacGillycuddy Reeks in Co Kerry.
Five years ago access to The Reeks, which include a number of Ireland ’s biggest mountains and most majestic scenery, was under threat. Nearly all the land on and around the Reeks is privately owned and a number of farmers were threatening to block public access. Some were refusing to allow necessary trail maintenance to take place.
The then Minister responsible for public access, Eamon O Cuiv, declared that the Reeks, along with Mount Gable in his own constituency, were to be made pilot projects under which the access issue was to be sorted out through negotiation “as a matter of urgency”.
This voluntary approach was continued by the current government.
Five years on, a massive, expensive 181-page report compiled by consultants was released in December and it does little more than state the blatantly obvious (You can read the whole thing here).
No fewer than 130 landowners, many from the very periphery of the Reeks area, were involved at the last count. In short, access to the Reeks has become a make-work scheme for bureaucrats, consultants and farmers.
Of course the uplands have to be managed. Of course landowners need to be consulted. But to have endless consultations followed by large expensive consultative documents is ridiculous, wasteful and ineffective. This sad state of affairs arises because those seeking to walk or cycle in the Reeks have no rights under Irish law. If they did have these basic rights, then you can bet that the whole process of consultation would have been sorted long before now.
It is the absence of legislation that causes these ludicrous interminable exercises in bureaucracy. If landowners knew that hikers and bikers would be on their land as a matter of right anyhow, they would have a much better incentive to sort out the details.
As it is, landowners feel that Irish law as presently constituted means that they hold the whiphand and can block access unless suitably mollified and massaged.
If our politicians legislated for the public good and preserved our rights of public access, we would not, five years on, be re-inventing the wheel.
Keep up the good work on listing routes
Thanks to members who have submitted routes for inclusion in the County Development Plans of County Councils. Please keep up the good work!
A number of councils are looking for information on walking paths traditionally used by the public. If you know of any such routes, send them to the council concerned, along with a photocopy of an OS map with the route highlighted. You don’t have to live in a county to send in a listing. It would help if you could please send a copy of your routes to Roger Garland, 43 Butterfield Park, Dublin 14 so KIO can follow them up.
Contact details for councils:
Carlow: Forward Planning Dept, Athy Rd , Carlow. Emaul: email@example.com;
Kerry: Marguerite Enright, Planning Dept, County Buildings , Tathass, Tralee . Email: Menright@kerrycoco.ie;
Cavan: Forward Planning, Farnham Centre, Cavan. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Longford: Forward Planning, Great Water Street , Longford. Email: email@example.com
Court to set new date for case over Howth Pathways dispute
Dispute over a gate and fencing on Howth Head pathway
The ongoing dispute over the fencing in of previously open land on Howth Head is escalating with a local community action group demanding that Fingal County Council order the removal of the fencing.
The Friends of Howth’s East Mountain have already secured a ruling by An Bord Pleanala that the fencing close to a house known as Heather Cottage should not have been erected without planning permission and they have written to the council demanding it be removed and subject to full the full planning process.
The issue over enclosure of the path has also been before the High Court, which adjourned a judicial review case sought by landowners challenging a Bord Pleanala ruling that a gate placed across a path should not have been erected without planning permission.
Part of the letter sent by the Friends to Fingal County Council reads: We would like to refer to page 17 paragraph 11.10 of An Bord Pleanala assessment ref number 06F.Rl3078 line number 11, which states that, under article 9(1)(A)(X) of the planning regulations that the erection of fencing outside the curtilage of the cottage is not exempted development.
This fencing encloses land which was habitually open to the public during the previous 10 years,and indeed not only for ten years but for many generations.
The fenced land is also not exempt development under article 6 of the planning regulations. Due to restrictions stated as article 9(1)(A)(vi)&( x) of the regulations. See page18 chapter 12.0 of An Bord Pleanala conclusion
On page 16 paragraph 11.8 of The Bord Pleanala assessment of another matter it states that a public right of way exists, which runs from the entrance to Heather Cottage, then East along the boundary wall and curtilage of the cottage and then on down to the lower cliff path.
The Bord in making this assessment fully supports our long held conviction that this area is now and has always been a traditional path, used by the general public and tourists for generations, despite the strenuous efforts by the owners of the cottage to deny access to this area. The erection of sheepwire fencing topped by barbed wire can no longer be tolerated.
The letter to the council follows an earlier ruling by An Bord which led to an appearance at the High Court in January. Following this ruling, which held that a gate erected at the entrance to the cottage should not have been erected without planning permission, the cottage’s owners, Senior Counsel Gerardine Connolly and sculptor Patrick O’Reilly, sought a judicial review. This was opened and adjourned in the Dublin High Court on January 14. A date for resumption had not yet been set as we went to print.
The East Mountain is a popular recreation area for Dubliners and the disputed area takes in a walking route which leads from the upper to lower cliff paths. The area has been the subject of a number of attempts at enclosure over the years. More than 300 acres of the land there is owned by Alans Park, part of Treasury Holdings, a property company which had most of its holdings taken over by NAMA. In the past Alans Park has made an application to build luxury houses on the mountain.
Access officers – the names you need to know
WHEN you run into an access problem, your first port of call should be to your local Rural Recreation Officer. He or she will be grateful for any updates regarding access and will usually approach the landowner in question to see if there is a problem which can be solved.
Here is a list of the current RROs:
Ann Lannigan (tel: 057 8661900 or 086 8447338; email firstname.lastname@example.org);
Deirdre Kennedy (tel: 071 9141138, Fax 071 9141162;
Martin Dunn (tel: 0906 488292; email email@example.com);
Maria Munckhof (tel: 066 9472724 -064 41930; mobile: 087 2957780; email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Con Ryan (tel: 062 33360; mobile 087 0556465; email: email@example.com;
James O’Mahoney (tel: 023 34035; mobiles 0870556465 and 0870556465); email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Pat Mellon (tel: 0404 46977; mobile 087 7888188) email: email@example.com;
Thomás Mac Gearailt (tel: 091 593410/091 523945; mobile: 087 0521339) email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Tom Carolan (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 087 2196930) email: email@example.com;
Eimear McCarthy (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 086 0495041); email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published by Keep Ireland Open. KIO is an environmental organisation dedicated to preserving public access to our mountains, lakes, seashore and countryside.
If you have any comments on the newsletter or any other aspect of our campaign or if you would like to describe your own problems with access to the countryside send correspondence to
The Secretary, KIO, 56 Pine Valley Avenue, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
or e-mail : email@example.com
Links to Affiliated organisations