Any hope North Kerry has of developing tourism in a significant way is being hampered by Kerry County Council’s attitude towards the region as a place largely of little or no scenic value the authority believes ideal for wind energy development.
That’s according to a body set up in recent years to figure out ways of growing tourism in the region – the North Kerry Tourism Forum.
The Forum believes the Council’s whole approach towards the development of the region is at the very least confused, with the existence of major policy documents they see as mutually exclusive in terms of achieving econmic growth in North Kerry.
Despite local perception that the region has been largely saved from widescale wind farm development, much of North Kerry still remains wide open to wind energy development.
Under the current County Development Plan (CDP) no more wind farms applications can be considered in large parts of the region until 80 per cent of existing applications are developed – but this ruling only applies to those areas zoned ‘Open to Consideration’ (seen in blue in the map).
This includes Finuge, where major objection to a wind farm development proved key in the drafting of this particular ruling early last year.
However, a large swathe of North Kerry zoned ‘Strategic Site Search’ is still ripe for wind energy development (as seen in red on the map).
This is the only area in the entire county zoned in such a way, defined in the previous CDP as ’eminently suitable for wind energy and is reserved for this purpose.’
“Why was North Kerry zoned for wind farms while most of the rest of the county was excluded?” is the question posed by Forum chairperson John O’Sullivan.
“The answer lies in the Landscape Character Assessment (LCA), a document written by Council as part of the eighth variation of the Renewable Energy Strategy for Kerry,” Mr O’Sullivan explained.
This document makes the incredible finding that much of North Kerry is of little or no scenic value. “The majority of North Kerry landscapes were identified as ordinary, ie as landscapes of no particular merit in terms of amenity,” page A3 of the LCA finds.
It’s an official designation guideline that has angered many in North Kerry who have been fighting for it to be redrawn for some time now.
Listowel Mayor Jimmy Moloney only last month asked Council management when the LCA would be reviewed.
And in saying the area is of little potential as a tourist amenity it leaves the door wide open for more wind farms in the Strategic areas – something that ultimately could end in a line of turbines from Tarbert all the way to Tralee.
Meanwhile, the hugely-important finding of a Council report appears to gathering dust. The Local Economic Development Plan finds: ‘The most pressing problem is the concentration of deprivation in North Kerry and the presence of highly disadvantaged areas in the towns of Tralee, Listowel and Castleisland. It is clear that policy makers, service providers and communities must tackle deprivation across the County. However, in doing so, they must develop a targeted response to the widespread deprivation in North Kerry and to the extreme deprivation in disadvantaged towns.’
“Our group is requesting that council take urgent action to change their policies to implement the findings of that report. As a priority we consider it fundamental to any such development the withdrawal of teh LCA…It is widely accepted that tourism will partly fuel the recovery…North Kerry must be placed to partake in it,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
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