A NEW stretch of national primary road will have to be built at a cost of €150 million in Co Kerry because of "bad planning", the president of An Taisce, Eanna Ní Lamhna, has charged.
On a visit to the county she became embroiled in sharp exchanges with local councillors about the role of An Taisce both locally and nationally.
Ms Ní Lamhna said councillors decided to override planners and force through permission for lines of one-off houses along the N22 between Farranfore and Killarney
The result was that the road could not be widened to cater for increased traffic and a new one has to be built at huge cost to the people of Kerry, she said.
Ms Ní Lamhna was defending her organisation against attacks by the mayor of Kerry, Michael Healy-Rae, during a visit to the county. He said An Taisce was "a secretive . . . interfering" organisation when it came to the planning process and was too active in Kerry on planning matters.
Mr Healy-Rae said An Taisce interfered in the planning process when it came to young people wanting to build homes on family-owned land and it should stick to "real" environmental work such as its green-flag campaigns.
However, Ms Ní Lamhna said planning was at the heart of the environment issues .
She said it was "a bit rich for Michael Healy-Rae to give out about An Taisce" when until very recently county councillors in Kerry were only too happy to vote through Section 4s (Now Section 140s) against planners' advice.
"An Taisce is set up to protect the environment. As it happens one of the biggest things that has damaged the environment is the huge amount of badly planned houses. Take for instance the road between Tralee and Killarney . . .
"There's houses on it from one end to the other. Most of these were not put in by the planners. They were put in by Section 4s voted through by the councillors," she said.
A senior Kerry County Council engineer confirmed yesterday that widening the existing 27 kms section of the N22 between Farranfore and Killarney to accommodate greater traffic had to be ruled out on safety and other considerations because of the number of houses lining this part of the road between Tralee and Killarney.
The capacity of the road had been reduced by the number of dwellings. Widening would "not have been feasible" as there would have been too many alterations to front gardens and so on.
A parallel road would have been needed to accommodate the existing houses, senior executive engineer Paul Curry said.
The estimated cost of "in excess of €150 million" included land purchase. A completely new route has been selected. The road is at the preliminary design stage. Because of lack of funding for national roads outside the major corridors it would be at least 2010 before the compulsory land purchase was completed, Mr Curry said.
Mr Healy-Rae has defended the councillors' motions that led to the problem and said he was proud to have given the people on the main road a roof over their heads.
"Any Section 4 that either my father [the TD and former councillor Jackie Healy-Rae] or my brother Danny [a Kerry county councillor] or myself ever put in ourselves or supported we're very proud of and glad if there's a roof over somebody's head today that they mightn't have had otherwise. I'll make no apology for that to Eanna or anyone else."
The people living on the Tralee Road would not appreciate Ms Ní Lamhna coming down to Kerry and telling them "their houses shouldn't be there at all", he said.
He was speaking during a debate on Radio Kerry with Ms Ní Lamhna who was on a visit to Kerry to talk about the work of An Taisce.
The Irish Times