Environmental group challenges new Beara Peninsula cable car in High Court
An environmental group is bringing a High Court challenge seeking to overturn planning permission granted for the development of a new cable car system linking the Beara Peninsula with Co Cork and Dursey Island.
n Bord Pleanála gave the green light to Cork County Council last November to dismantle the existing cable car structure and build a new two-way cable car, complete with operating stations and an exhibition center continental, cafe and parking.
There is currently only one six-person cable car which is used by around 20,400 visitors each year, according to planning documents.
The two new cable cars could carry 15 people each, with the number of monthly users capped at 5,000.
Judge Richard Humphreys cleared Friends of the Irish Environment Limited (FIE), allowing it to pursue its legal challenge to the planning permission. He adjourned the case to a later date.
In a sworn statement, Kieran Cummins, director of the FIE, said the environment in which the infrastructure is placed is “highly sensitive”, with the island and mainland sides captured within the Special Protection Area (SPA) of the Beara Peninsula.
He said he believed the popularity of social media sites such as Instagram had generated a “new level of interest in the drama and beauty” of Isle of Dursey in recent times.
The FIE, represented by Oisin Collins SC, is challenging the Board’s decision on a number of national and European law grounds.
He claims the council ‘erred’ in concluding that the development does not harm the integrity of European sites when this allegedly could not have been established beyond reasonable scientific doubt.
He alleges the council fails to scientifically substantiate its reasons for setting a monthly limit of 5,000 visitors and said the estimated 60,000 annual visitors represent a “very significant increase” in traffic to Dursey Island.
The FIE also claims that the council failed to properly provide an actual assessment, either in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or an Appropriate Assessment (AA), as required by national law and European.
The FIE notes that the council’s own inspector ‘issued a negative opinion’ on the environmental effects of the proposed development and recommended that planning permission be refused on environmental grounds.
In particular, according to the FIE, the inspector recommended denial due to the likelihood of significant adverse effects on the nearby Beara Peninsula SPA and the Kenmare River Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
He also claims the council erred in assuming that the crab – part of the crow family – is a ground-nesting bird and in failing to properly assess the impacts of the proposed development on its nesting.
The FIE also alleges that the decision is invalid because it allegedly violated the EIA and Habitats guidelines.
In addition to an annulment order, the FIE is seeking various statements, including that the State has failed to properly transpose sections of the EU Birds Directive by not putting in place special conservation measures to ensure the survival and reproduction of crab and northern fulmar. birds related to the Beara Peninsula SPA.
The FIE case is against An Bord Pleanála, Ireland and the Attorney General, while Cork County Council is a notified party.