Kerry legend battles planning move

Famous Kerry footballer Mick O’Connell and a neighbour are battling with county council and department of local government planners opposed to land on Valentia Island, Co Kerry, being designated for low-density housing

The authorities sought to designate a parcel of 9.4 hectares at Knightstown on Valentia Island as ‘agriculture’ in a new six-year development plan.

However, backed by county councillors, Mr O’Connell and his neighbour Seanie Murphy strongly objected to planners’ attempts to zone the lands at Farranreagh for agriculture use.

Both men said they and their families had owned and worked the land for generations and, in fact, believed the existing low-density designation would preserve the coastal area.

In a written joint submission during a period of consultation, Mr O’Connell and Mr Murphy stated: “As islanders and seamen we are of the soil there and have a very special affinity with the land.”

They noted there had been two previous attempts to “rezone to agricultural” by planners and, on both occasions, they said Kerry County Council member had “wisely” concluded not to do so, they said.

“We submit that, as in 2008 and 2013, this remains an unwise proposal,” they said

Both men were present at a meeting in Killorglin on Friday where the new six-year plan for west Iveragh was finalised by planners and councillors. Councillors rejected “strong advice” by planners and proceeded to zone the lands for low-density housing.

The Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government had previously warned that the pattern of housing in the west Iveragh area was undermining towns and villages and wanted more compact settlements.

Planners said the island land at Farranreagh was a highly scenic “coastal landscape” between the road where “a high level of rural one-off dwellings” already existed.

They said zoning that land would alter the plan for Knightstown and pave the way for up to 300 houses, and be unsustainable.

Senior planner Damien Ginty told to councillors that proposed dwelling houses for sons and daughters of the landowners or the favourite niece or nephew could still be “considered” for planning under agricultural zoning.

“I would advise the members if these lands are zoned as residential they will cater for 300 units and this would be a significant change,” he said.

Kerry County Council’s director of planning Michael Scannell concurred and appealed to councillors to not to zone the land as residential. He also warned “the level of change” would attract the attention of the department and indicated the decision could “stifle” the village of Knightstown.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Connell and Mr O’Neill had also pointed out that the lands were first zoned for low- density housing at the height of the Celtic Tiger when landowners had been seeking high-density residential zoning.

They said their motives at the time were the very opposite and were to safeguard “a visually sensitive area from such inappropriate development”.

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