A decision by Kerry County Council to grant planning permission for a large caravan park near Banna Strand has been greeted with dismay by local residents who had objected in large numbers to the proposal.
The council has decided to grant planning permission to Liam and Linda West of West's Caravan and Camping Park, Killorglin, for a caravan park with 161 static units along with a shop, launderette and other facilities including a wastewater treatment plant and constructed wetland at Banna Mountain, Ardfert. The site is around 37 acres in size.
Widening of the public road, which leads to the blue flag beach, and a service road to the park have also been approved. The application incorporates a smaller 20 unit adjoining caravan park owned by the Wests .
Mr West, who has been in the caravan park business for 33 years, has defended the caravan park and said it will be spacious and constructed to the highest modern standards.
He said a full environmental impact study had been carried out at his expense.
The caravan park would be built over a large site and was needed for tourism. This was a prime location, alongside the beach, and some 20 acres of the caravan park were on high ground.
However, local residents, some 40 of whom had lodged individual objections to the application, said the site was in reality "a lake", and the area's fragile environment would be disturbed.
Residents say there are already enough caravan parks in the area and permanent houses are vastly outnumbered by large mobile homes.
The chairman of the Banna-Carrahan Residents Association, Walter Sheehan, said the large park and works would "wreck an already fragile environment". There are three caravan parks already in Banna, one of which is substantial. Some of the submissions pointed to the previous planning history of the applicant in which enforcement proceedings were begun by the county council over interference with sensitive sand dunes some years ago. Restoration of the dunes had been undertaken by the developer following negotiations with the county council, but re-planting with marram grasses and so on had only been "partially successful" in undoing the damage, a council spokesman said yesterday. Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism John O'Donoghue has also come in for criticism. Mr O'Donoghue is listed on council files as having made representations on behalf of the developers for an original, larger proposal for the site last July, which sought planning for 245 units and lodges as well as 10 holiday homes. That proposal was withdrawn last August and this latest one submitted in January.
Councillor Toireasa Ferris said that given the damage done to sand dunes previously, it ill behoved a Minister with responsibility for tourism to support an application resisted by local residents.
"As a Minister there was an onus upon him to make himself aware of everything to do with the planning application he was making representations for and where there was a history of contempt for planning laws. He should not have got involved in this planning application," Ms Ferris said.
A spokesman for Mr O'Donoghue said he made "no representation" on the current application. On the previous application he merely "wrote on behalf of the applicant to ask for an update". This was not a representation.
Councillor Michael Healy-Rae said yesterday that he supported the application. He had looked at the site and it was a suitable location for a caravan park.
The decision can now be appealed to An Bord Pleanála and local residents are to decide on whether to do this next week.
© 2007 The Irish Times