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Judicial Review For Dursey Island Cable Car And Visitors Centre

category cork | environment | press release author Tuesday January 25, 2022 22:38author by foie Report this post to the editors

‘INEXPLICABLE IRRATIONALITY’ IN DURSEY ISLAND CABLE CAR & VISITORS CENTRE APPROVAL CLAIM IN HIGH COURT JUDICIAL REVIEW CLAIMS ALTERNATIVE PLAN TO €10M DURSEY ISLAND CABLE CAR NEVER ASSESSED

JUDICIAL REVIEW CLAIMS ALTERNATIVE PLAN TO €10M DURSEY ISLAND CABLE CAR NEVER ASSESSED

An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve a €10m visitors centre and cable car for Dursey Island in west Cork may face a Judicial Review after Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] were given permission today by High Court Justice Niamh Hyland to bring an application on 31 January, 2022.

JUDICIAL REVIEW CLAIMS ALTERNATIVE PLAN TO €10M DURSEY ISLAND CABLE CAR NEVER ASSESSED

An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve a €10m visitors centre and cable car for Dursey Island in west Cork may face a Judicial Review after Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] were given permission today by High Court Justice Niamh Hyland to bring an application on 31 January, 2022.

Cork County Council and Fáilte Ireland applied to An Bord Pleanala to replace the existing 6-person cable car with a two-cars desynchronised reversible cable car system capable of carrying 650 people an hour. The permission includes an extensive glass-fronted visitor centre with a gift shop and 84-person cafe on the mainland with parking for 80 cars and buses. The 6 km access road is to be improved with 10 passing bays.

Friends of the Irish Environment, An Taisce and Birdwatch Ireland all appealed against the grant of permission by Cork County Council in 2019. The groups called the proposal “Undesirable on multiple grounds", citing the “ecological sensitivity of Dursey” as well as the narrow stretch of road linking it to national network making it “unsuitable for a proposal of this scale.”

No Management Plan
Objections centred on the protection of the Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area for Birds, in particular the rare choughs. In their objection Birdwatch Ireland said there has been a 30% drop in the numbers of Chough, a species with special protection under national and EU law, on the island since 2003. The organisation pointed out ‘The lack of conservation objectives for the site and the lack of an existing visitor management plan or SPA management plan means that there is no pathway for long term Chough conservation through which the proposed development could fit.’

The An Bord Pleanala Inspector, who visited the island twice, showed in two Reports that the developer’s calculations of the impact of visitors which was based on Quessant Island off the Brittany Coast which also hosts chough species ‘cannot be relied on for a number of reasons.’

The ‘pro-rata calculation methodology’ for the visitor numbers allowed by French authorities that led to the Board’s decision to cap the visitor numbers at just 5,000 visitors a month or 60,000 a year ‘misrepresent the foraging area’ with assertions ‘put forward without scientific basis’, leading to the Inspector’s conclusion that ‘it is not possible to rely on the numerical visiting capacity arrived at for Dursey Island’.

The Board’s Inspector twice recommended refusal citing the flaws in the Appropriate Assessment, saying that he was ‘not satisfied beyond reasonable scientific doubt, that adverse effects on the integrity of the Beara Peninsula SPA or the Kenmare River SAC can be excluded.’

However the Board stated that it ‘accepted and adopted the Appropriate Assessment carried out in the Inspectors Report’ but nonetheless approved the proposal in what FIE Director Tony Lowes said was ‘an inexplicable irrationality’. In deciding not to accept the Inspector’s recommendation to refuse permission, the Board Order states it ‘noted and acknowledged the inconsistent methodology and incorrect data but considered that ‘capping the visitor numbers and significant mitigation measures would address these issues’.

Alternatives not assessed
Friends of the Irish Environment, whose offices are on the Beara Peninsula near the development, said that they had found after a visit to the Board’s Dublin offices that their files contained an alternative proposal which was prepared in April 2013 by consultants on behalf of Cork County Council.

The ’Dursey Island and Cable Car Strategic Review’, described by the Council as a ‘feasibility study’, outlines an upgrade of the existing cable car at a then estimated cost of €600,000 instead of the approved proposal which it is now estimated would cost €10 million. This alternative, which would satisfy the urgent need for a replacement of the existing cable car, was never assessed in the 2019 Environmental Impact Assessment as an alternative. ‘combined with the recommended electronic signage at the main road and in Castletownbere and Glengarriff show waiting times, this alternative was never considered

In its appeal against the project, FIE cited the ‘Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape’ from Cork University Press which says ‘Irish tourism now faces a crossroads. It remains confused as to whether the country should aspire to be a cheap mass-market destination, or expensive high-end niche market’.

In its appeal, An Taisce suggested that ‘The model for the future of tourism investment in West Cork should be non-car-based and promote longer stays accommodated in locations to a level commensurate with the capacity of the host environment rather than the high-volume car or bus-based day trip model upon which the subject project is based’.

ENDS

Contact: Friends of the Irish Environment 353 (0)87 2176316 / 353 (0)27 74771
Advisory on original appeal: https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/17721-leading-environment-groups-oppose-7m-dursey-island-mass-tourism-project

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