Friday 30 May 2008

Council: No holiday homes on golf courses

A MOVE to allow some cash-strapped Kerry golf clubs to build holiday homes on courses has been stymied by the local authority.

The county has more 20 golf courses, some of them rated among the best in the world, but some of the lesser -known clubs are scrambling to survive.

A fall-off in American golfing tourists and an unfavourable exchange rate for the dollar against the euro have landed some clubs in the rough this season.

With a downward trend in tourism and green fee revenue dropping, holiday homes are seen as a money making ace for clubs - whether sold or rented.

Fianna Fáil councillor Anne McEllistrim suggested to Kerry Co Council management that "favourable consideration" be given to clubs seeking planning permission to build holiday homes that would help them get out of the red.

However, other councillors and senior planning engineer Tom Sheehy believed clubs were out of bounds when the issue arose during a debate on a new Kerry County Development Plan.

Mr Sheehy said that if a golf club was allowed to build holiday homes and later went out of business, the council could be obliged to take over developments where there were two or more houses.

Viability of golf clubs should not be a reason for allowing holiday homes, he said. "If a club is unviable, even 10 holiday homes won't make it viable," Mr Sheehy said. "If that's the situation, a club will go under, with or without holiday homes."

Cllr Robert Beasley (SF) said golf had peaked a long time ago and holiday homes would not make courses viable. The huge growth in golf courses and the numbers of people playing golfing, in the 1980s and 1990s, has peaked, he said.

"There's now a surplus of golf facilities in some areas of the southwest, as clubs compete for members and green fee business. Many people who in former times might have taken up golf are now opting for other leisure pursuits, such as swimming, health centres, walking and cycling, " Cllr Beasley said.

Meanwhile, a nine-hole golf course at Tralee Racecourse closed recently.

At the same time, the promoters of a multi-million euro golf course at Inch, in the Dingle Peninsula, are still seeking the go-ahead from Environment Minister John Gormley.

An Bord Pleanála approved the project in 1997, but it has since been held up due to conservation and environmental issues and needs ministerial approval as it is a proposed Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Golf course designer Dr Arthur Spring, who has drawn up plans for Inch, claimed a well planned golf course development would only enhance the Inch sand dunes and beach area.

Inch, he said, had lost out in tourism but he believed a course would be viable and would attract upwards of 20,000 golfers to the area each year.

Donal Hickey
Irish Examiner

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