Newsletter 57 Jan/Feb 2018
The Old Coach Road – Court Of Appeal
The case was subject to a one-day hearing at the Court Of Appeal on Tuesday 16th January 2018. It concluded with a reserved judgement and a decision will probably be given within one to three months. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that Noel Barry and Neil Lenoach of the Enniskerry Walkers Association (EWA) get a positive result. It is also very encouraging to see so many supporters at the hearing as well as the large swell of public support expressed. This is important as Counsel for Noel and Neil claimed they were acting in the public interest in trying to protect access which had long being enjoyed by the public.
Campaigners including Keep Ireland Open point out that the level of evidence showing the route as an old roadway would have been accepted without question there being a public right of way in almost any other European jurisdiction – including England, which has completely reformed the property laws on which Irish law is still based.
The route of the walk in question is described in the Dublin/North Wicklow East West Mapping map as the Old Road and begins a few paces to the left as one exits the Wicklow Way at the Glencree Road and continues up to Annacrivey Wood and onto Glencullen or alternatively you can go to Kilmalin and back onto the Glencree Road at the Bray/Enniskerry bus stop just up from Shop River
ACCESS ISSUES – UPDATE
Fanad: Closure of traditional pathway to the Pollaid (Pollet) Great Arch on W coast of Lough Swilly. There are many websites that feature this natural wonder, which those interested can look up.
Blocked by large concrete caissons and Keep Out signs.
KIO has been working with the excellent local protest group, the Pollet Arch Action Committee.
Inexplicably, the Council, on being served with a Section 5 determination request, declared it exempt development. This was appealed to An Bord Pleanala, and a decision is due later this month (February 2018).
Beyond Portsalon, which has a picturesque little harbour are the spectacular tunnels through the cliffs known as the Seven Arches, up to 300ft/90m long, 20ft/6m wide and 30ft/9m high, and the Great Arch of Doagh Beg. Seven arches are a set of interconnecting caves formed by erosion of waves on limestone rocks.
At Ardmalin, closure of path leading up to Malin Head, the most northerly point of Ireland. KIO has been assisting local protesters, but the main one of these has had to withdraw for health reasons. Since then, local co-operation is almost nil (not an uncommon malaise, unfortunately, here as in many other parts of Ireland, hence the fraught state of access generally).
Donegal County Council has, throughout, been extremely poor in its engagement on this matter, even to the point of ignoring letters and e-mails.
Thallabaun Beach. Heavy boulders trucked in from outside the area and placed to block entrance to beach. All approaches to the Council ignored, so referred to An Bord Pleanala. Board upheld appeal in January 2014, and this development declared as unauthorised (planning permission should have been obtained). Disappointingly, however, the Council had to be pressed to enforce, and it was not until early 2016 that the developer was made to move the boulders from their particular placement. However, they were merely dragged to one side, so are still there as an alien and unsightly presence. As late as 2017, MCC have ignored requests to have them removed in the same way they were brought in.
Corragaun (on coast south of Louisburgh): Fencing blocking access to Corragaun Lake, a tidally-renewed lake, a noted haunt of wildlife, and extending out across beach. This appeared in 2011 but, once more, Mayo County Council ignored it, declaring it to be exempt development. This was overturned by An Bord Pleanala in its decision of January 2014, but it was not until January 2017 that enforcement causing the fencing to be removed was confirmed. It therefore took an unjustifiable 5 or 6 years for any sort of effective action to be taken by the Council.
Brackloon Wood, near Westport. Closure by adjoining householder of the main entrance path to this old oak wood.
Under Section 5 request, declared by the Council to be “insignificant interference”. KIO appealed this to An Bord Pleanala, A decision was due last September, but the date for this was extended twice, and is now open-ended. We are very concerned about this delay, fearing further development across the pathway. ABP has confirmed the inspector’s report is with the board. We are pressing for a decision without further delay.
Slievenamon – Kilcash and other woodland:
Closure of entrances at several points to extensive woodland on Slievenamon Mtn. by an individual developer. On our advice the different affected groups around the mountain coalesced into an umbrella group, The Friends of Slievenamon, and were to have sent a Section 5 to Tipperary County Council. Despite enquiries, since then (October 2017) nothing has been heard from this group. We will be trying again to establish whether this is still the serious issue that it appeared to be when reported to us by local interests at the outset when they came to KIO for help (March 2017).
Fenit Island eyesore and industrial style fencing defacing the island, and blocking the perimeter pathway walk around the island.
This very scenic island, connected by means of a causeway to the mainland is the reputed birthplace of St. Brendan the Navigator, and contains 9 smallholdings.
Heavy steel fencing erected by an incoming landowner and two local ones appeared and, despite many protests were ignored by Kerry County Council. The saga had gone on for years before we were asked for help, but in 2015 KIO won a decision from An Bord Pleanala that the fencing was non-exempt from the need for planning permission. It is, therefore, illegal. Since then, KIO and the local grouping, the Save Fenit Island Alliance, has pressed an inert Kerry County Council into enforcement action. The Enforcement Notices have not resulted in any complying action by the developers.. A case is now being prepared by KCC’s legal advisors to
bring the developers to court to restore access and to replace the awful fencing (see accompanying photos) with normal farm fencing such as is to be seen all over Ireland. If the gruesome fencing here were to become a precedent for Kerry and elsewhere, the mind boggles at what our sensitive landscape would look like, to say nothing of its effect on tourism. Yet, Kerry County Council wanted to ignore it and look the other way, for reasons that can only be guessed at. However, now that it has been stirred into action and made to see its statutory responsibilities, it is to be hoped that it will press the upcoming court case with new-found robustness. But it has been a long and hard battle, which has taken up far too much of our organisation’s time and that of the heroic Save Fenit Island Alliance.
Watch this space.
Fencing at Fenit
Lough Leane at Fossa, near Killarney – Access road/pathway to lake shore blocked by gates and fencing.
One of the three landowners adjoining the access road blocked “his” section of it, making it impossible to walk to the lake shore, and for the rowing club to get to its boathouse. We were glad to be able to meet the request of local complainants for help. A Section 5 determination request was sent to Kerry County Council but, in the event, it was the Council itself that referred the matter to An Bord Pleanala. The Bord’s decision (April 2017) was that the blocking development is indeed non-exempt, i.e., planning permission should have been sought. The developer/landowner has now decided to seek Judicial Review of An Bord Pleanala’s decision. The High Court granted permission for this and, at time of writing, a hearing date has not yet been set.
As a general comment, the overall experience of KIO in dealing with local authorities all over Ireland is entirely unsatisfactory. Lack of any action on blockage of long-enjoyed access (or even interest in it) when asked is apparently the norm. Very often, correspondence is ignored, obfuscation the order of the day, and those making representations to do with the welfare of the natural environment apparently seen as a nuisance and an inconvenience. The result is that perpetrators of “Keep-Out” unilateral closures of long-established traditional access routes have the confidence of knowing that local authorities will seldom take note of what they are doing, let alone take any action or initiative themselves to defend the environment in their charge.
Instead, they usually have to be forced to act by the invocation of the Planning and Developing Act. But, for organisations like ours, the long route must then be taken via Section 5s and referrals to An Bord Pleanala – by which time access-denying development may be consolidated, made worse, and so take on the aspect of permanence.
A blinkered attitude is also evident by such as Failte Ireland, which persists in not wanting to
know about what is wrong about what it is peddling, and won’t join with environmental organisations in trying to fix it (only good news, “please – that’s official”).
The Wild Atlantic Way is one of Failte Ireland’s most heavily promoted “tourism products”. It touts the vision of an open landscape in which visitors can be active in experiencing the natural world along the coast. The reality is quite different. Many of the very things a visitor might like to do when he leaves his car are off limits. In many places a carefree walk to the edges of the western coast along the “Wild Atlantic” are not open to him or her.
Here are some of them:
Pollaid Great Arch, a unique wonder on the W coast of Lough Swill, Co. Donegal.
The Seven Arches, a wonderful series of similar rock formations further along the same coast.
Horn Head, Co. Donegal.
Malin Head (from Ardmalin), Co. Donegal.
Several routes to and on Benbulben Mtn., Co. Sligo.
Uggool Beach, Co. Mayo. A superb, mile-long beach, completely closed by a local landowner since 1989. Recent news, though is that visitors are allowed on to it if they pay him. As far as is known, this is the only beach in Ireland where this occurs.
Fenit Island, Co. Kerry (see above).
Lough Leane shoreline, near Killarney.
There are many other places along the WAW and elsewhere where access to walking possibilities is fraught. It, therefore, appears to be assumed by Failte Ireland that motorist visitors will be content to get as near as they can to the attractions of the coastline and admire them through their car windows.
We in Ireland are light years away from the guaranteed access situation enjoyed by our near neighbours across the Irish Sea. There, there is enlightened legislation which guarantees reasonable access to the countryside for the general public, and which gives legal protection to the huge network of rural tracks and paths. This legislation – (in England/Wales), The Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 and (in Scotland), the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, as amended. The Scottish legislation is the gold standard we aspire to, and our Holy Grail.
However, KIO continues to lobby for a start to be made on access-guaranteeing legislation, but it’s an uphill battle. In very recent years, two Labour Party-backed Private Member’s Bills have been put before the Dail, but remain buried by a system that clings onto an absolutist attitude to land use and ownership that is the worst in Europe.
Here’s a final thing for you to envy. In 2018 the final stretch of coastal path that goes the whole way around the extreme edge of Britain (3,780 miles) will be in use. Every inch of it is protected by law against interference. The South West Coast Path in Devon and Cornwall is part of this, and has been for many years. It has been enjoyed, in open wonder, by members of KIO, who have brought the SWCP magazine to our notice. In an issue now several years old, it was reported that a study conducted by the University of Exeter found that a section of the path in N Devon/Cornwall was worth some Stg.£300M to the local economy there. It is no doubt far more now.Here, not a single metre of long-used track and path is legally protected, and, over and over, continuing access by the public has to be fought for and defended in the face of vested interests and a succession of indifferent governments. Add to this the several excellent Greenway projects that are stalled by local interests with narrow vision, notably in Kerry and Galway.
Friends, we have a large task before us, but we can only go forward and hope for success in the end. Our children’s children have been sold into debt slavery by speculation rooted in land and property, deserve that we do our best for them.
(Text and information supplied by Michael Murphy, Western Secretary KIO)
Your AGM is on 28th April 2018 – be there
The KIO AGM will be held at the An Oige headquarters in 61 Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7 on Saturday 28th April, Coffee will be served from 11am and the meeting will begin at 11.30 am. Free parking is available at the back of the An Oige building. Just let reception know you are with KIO and they will open the security gates. See you there
Good news for a change
Ballycroy National Park in Co Mayo It has recently been announced by the NPWS that land is being acquired to increase the size of the Park by 50%. However this will only increase the percentage of land owned by all our national parks to a little over 1% – a pathetic figure compared the UK where it stands at approximately 12%.
Where can I walk?
The Winter edition of the (British) Ramblers magazine contains a succinct summary of the situation in the UK. We need to remind ourselves from time to time just how good the scenario for walkers is there:
In England and Wales public rights of way: 223,000km, access land (usually open countryside) 367,000 hectares (21% of total land area) and the Costal Walk around England and Wales 3,670 miles.
In Scotland there is a right to roam everywhere except around houses and gardens and growing crops.
Whereas in Ireland Public Rights of Way amount to a handful of mostly short walks to beaches etc. with no access land.
Unlike successive Irish governments the UK political system has continually updated its laws and looks at land and what is its best possible use in serving the common good and not at who owns it. In the UK and most European countries access to the landscape is demand driven and supported by legislation, whereas in Ireland it is supply driven by private land owners and parish pump politics.
What are KIO doing about this? Over the years we have succeeded in having this vital matter debated in the Dail. However, irrespective of whatever Government was in power, our Bills were strangled at birth. We have a commitment from Joan Burton TD, a prominent member of the Labour party, to have another go. Lets keep hoping.
Responsibility for wildcat fires
No fires recently. However, there were a number of these in the last Autumn. The Farming Independent comments that Farmers might have to consider restricting access to commonages and uplands due to illegal burning on these lands. A spokesman for the farm organisation IHHFA is quoted in saying at a public meeting in Achill Co Mayo “Will farmers be able to sit down and watch people walking onto their land knowing that if they accidentally start a fire the landowner could be liable”. Is this situation going to provide farm organisations with another pretext to restrict access?
Attitude of farm organisations
If only…the farm organisations would say: we are willing to allow reasonable access to the countryside provided that…rather than we won’t allow access because…
Rough grazing land
As there is no right of access to rough grazing, however remote, surely the time has come to regard this land as primarily a recreational resource rather than agricultural? Or to put it another way: agricultural activities should play second fiddle to recreational use with appropriate compensation to sheep farmers for any loss of income. As our wilderness areas are a great draw for our visitors compensation could come out of the Tourism budget.
Hellfire Club – proposed development
South Dublin County Council, Coillte and Bord Failte are planning to spend over €19million transforming the Hellfire Club and Massy’s Wood into a major tourist and economic development, including an intrusive large visitor centre, extensive car parking, coach parking, cafe, shop and related facilities. Keep Ireland Open are of the view that the development would desecrate this wonderful amenity area which attracts a large number of walkers and other recreational users at weekends, and threaten the integrity of the historic Hellfire Club building.
Together with groups such as An Taisce, Save the Hellfire and local community organisations, KIO objected to the development. A petition was signed by over 12,000 people. The main grounds for the objection from KIO were:
1 The amenity will be severely limited and degraded by the extent of the development and will discourage walkers from availing of the wonderful facility.
2 The situation will be exacerbated by the massive increase in traffic to the area (300,000 extra needed to make the venture viable). The roads leading to the area are small rural roads and they are entirely unsuited to a large-scale development of this nature.
There are other serious issues relating to the environment, wildlife and archaeology.
We have called for an Oral Hearing to examine the complex issues involved.!
County development plans
We continue to make submissions to the review of these plans on access, walking and cycling and other directly related issues. Many of our suggestions have been accepted and included in the new plans. The relevance of county development plans cannot be overstated in their role as providing directions to local councils and An Bord Pleanala on whether or not to grant planning permission for development.