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Michael H-Rae calls for judicial probe into ‘outrageous’ zoning

Deputy Michael Healy Rae has reiterated his calls for a judicial investigation of a key document underpinning zoning in North Kerry and which finds much of the territory to be of little or no scenic or tourism value – including Ballybunion’s beautiful beaches and golf links.

The Independent Kerry TD this week blasted that document as ‘outrageous’ for its unfair dismissal of so much of the region of North Kerry from the point of view of tourism and recreation.

He was referring to the Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) signed off on by Kerry county councillors in 2012 which informs the County Development Plan and public strategy into a wide range of policy areas.

Critics of the LCA say it has ultimately enabled a policy of saddling North Kerry with a disproportionate number of renewable energy units, chiefly in onshore wind. By registering broad swathes of the region of not ‘being important for scenery, tourism or recreation’ the Council has been able to zone large tracts as ‘open to consideration’ and ‘strategic site search’ for renewables.

Other areas deemed unimportant from a tourism and scenery point of view include Ballylongford – home to one of the most important castles of its type in all of Europe in Carrigafoyle – as well as Ballyduff, where the famous Rattoo round tower is situated.

Deputy Healy Rae branded the LCA as ‘detrimental’ to the entire region this week.

“I really think that the whole way they handled it was very poor. The area has been neglected badly because that wasn’t dealt with properly at the time and from an economic point of view it has been detrimental to the region,” Deputy Healy Rae told The Kerryman.

“The likes of Ballybunion being of no scenic value is outrageous, and it was an outrageous decision at the time to label it as such…the ball was dropped on it, there’s nothing to be gained out of it but it has to be addressed and I am calling on the Minister for Planning to seek a judicial review of the LCA again.”

Deputy Healy Rae has previously asked the Taoiseach to call a judicial investigation into the planning of North Kerry based on the LCA and the Renewable Strategy. The full text of his question read:

“Does the Taoiseach agree with Kerry County Council’s statements in the official planning document, Landscape Character Assessment of Kerry, that the majority of landscapes in North Kerry including for example the landscapes around the World famous Ballybunion golf club and beach, Carrigafoyle Castle, Rattoo Round Tower, are “not important for scenery, tourism or recreation.” Ballybunion is not alone. This statement is repeated several times for most locations in North Kerry in the Landscape Character Assessment of Kerry which was adopted by the council as part of Kerry’s Renewable Energy Strategy and critically, is and continues to be, the basis for zoning the majority of North Kerry for planning purposes as being Open to Consideration for wind farms and zones a large part of North Kerry as a Strategic Site Search Area.

“Further, an Bord Pleanala has referenced this planning zoning, having been approved by Kerry County Council, among their reasoning for approving wind farm applications. Because of the impact of this planning zoning on the 70,000 residents of North Kerry, which is based on what the people of North Kerry regard as totally incorrect opinions that state the majority of North Kerry’s landscapes are not important for scenery, tourism or recreation in the Landscape Character Assessment, we are asking you to call a judicial investigation into the planning zoning of North Kerry based on the Landscape Character Assessment of Kerry and the related Renewable Energy Strategy.”

The question was transferred to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on that occasion, with Minister Heather Humphreys informing the Kerry TD she expected there would be ‘greater consistency’ in the drafting of landscape assessment under the National Landscape Strategy for Ireland initiated by her in 2015.