Monday 17 March 2008

Protesters vow to step up M3 campaign after deal struck

PROTESTERS opposed to the M3 Meath motorway route yesterday pledged to escalate their campaign.

Campaigners protecting the Rath Lugh national monument at the Tara/Skryne valley said they were prepared to repeat the actions of psychology graduate Lisa Feeney who dug herself into a tunnel for several days.

Ms Feeney finally emerged from the seven-metre shaft late on Saturday night after pleas from her family as well as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

She had "booby trapped" the tunnel to collapse if workers tried to dig her out and she was prepared to stay underground for up to two months.

Her father Jim Feeney met her as she climbed out of the tunnel after 11pm on Saturday amid rounds of applause from fellow campaigners after having spent three days underground.

Protesters say Ms Feeney only agreed to come out of the tunnel after a deal was struck with the National Roads Authority to halt work at the monument for a month.

This will give protesters enough time to progress a legal challenge to the construction works in the courts.

In the meantime though, objectors to the M3 route will be asked to mount protests outside building sites nationwide operated by SIAC, a construction firm involved in the motorway project.

Protestor spokesman Derek Berrill explained: "We've only started. The tunnel is a minor thing as far as we're concerned.

"If people are willing to be in solidarity [with us], it's up to them to protest outside sites next week,"

Mr Berrill said protesters were "absolutely willing" to repeat Ms Feeney's actions if necessary.

Campaigners are officially expected to call for the building site protests on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Ms Feeney was said to be in good spirits yesterday while recovering from her time spent in the tunnel.

She visited two Garda stations after leaving the protesters' site over the weekend, where campaigners say documents were left with gardaí relating to her agreement with the NRA concerning the building stoppage.

It could not be clarified last night exactly what role gardaí had played in reaching the agreement.

Last week, a High Court bid to halt work on the M3 Dublin to Navan motorway failed.

The court application for an injunction to stop the work claimed a national monument on the site was in danger of being damaged because of the building work.

The NRA denied the claim and said any delay in the project would cost the taxpayer €330,000 per week.

The NRA did not return calls yesterday.

Local delight as fight against housing plan pays off

A PLANNING application for about 100 houses in Killorglin, Co Kerry, has been refused by An Bord Pleanála. Local residents have successfully appealed against a decision of Kerry County Council last June, to grant planning to Glenloc Consulting Ltd for the development.

The proposal was to build 97 houses and apartments, with a creche, on a 4.7 hectare site about a half-kilometre from Killorglin, off the Iveragh Road.

Reasons for the refusal include the creation of traffic problems close to two bends and that the development would be in breach of the local area plan for Killorglin.

Senior planning inspector Ruairi Somers said the development would give rise to a "serious traffic hazard" especially in the absence of a footpath in the area.

Meanwhile, as controversy about planning for one-off houses in Kerry continues, a top planning officer said people were being refused permission for three reasons mainly.

They included effluent treatment, traffic safety and how a house could be integrated into the landscape, according to the county council's director of planning services Michael McMahon.

However, he said all three areas could be dealt with during a pre-planning consultation service made available by the council.

Mr McMahon said many people were either not availing of the service, or ignoring its recommendations.

"While following recommendations is no guarantee of getting planning, people who engage in consultation and follow the recommendations are more likely to get permission," he said.

Mr McMahon said people were spending a lot of money on applications that were turned down because they did not engage in consultations. He pointed out Kerry was the only county where on-site consultations were being offered to the sons and daughters of landowners looking to build on family land.

Councillors in Kerry claim planners' interpretation of laws and guidelines is too restrictive and making it virtually impossible for young couples to get planning in the countryside.

But planning officials said more than 80% of applications in Kerry were granted - roughly in line with the national trend.

The Kerry branch of the Irish Rural Dwellers' Association, however, said the policy now was to try to locate as many people as possible in estates in towns around the county.

The association is to stage a protest outside a Kerry County Council meeting on April 21 next.

Juno McEnroe
Irish Examiner

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