Anger at plans to move Met Éireann’s Valentia unit

OBJECTIONS are mounting over plans by Met Éireann to relocate an air monitoring unit in south Kerry to “an uncontaminated site” on Valentia Island.

The unit is currently part of an internationally-renowned observatory.

The proposed relocation is to avail of cleaner air as part of its monitoring of background pollution.

Ironically, most of the objections to a planning application lodged with Kerry County Council relate to concerns about contamination of the unspoilt environment of the proposed site — a special protected area on the north west of the island.

Met Éireann has earmarked a 59-acre site at Bray, Valentia for the project which will include two ten-metre air and environmental monitoring masts, a laboratory protected by fencing and an access road, as well as a septic tank.

The applicants claim extensive search shows the Bray site was the most suitable.

So far, seven objections have been received from individuals linked with the island, as well as An Taisce and the Valentia Island Community Environmental Group .

Locals are demanding an environmental impact study.

Hares, falcons and up to 40 species of wild flowers inhabit the area.

James Shean, chairman of the island’s environmental group warned the arrival of heavy machinery will have “devastating incursions” on the blanket bog.

Archaeologically, the area is largely unexplored but it contains ancient houses and pre-bog walls.

Dr Catherine McMullin of An Taisce claimed the air monitoring facility would introduce “an industrial type building” into the unspoilt natural landscape.

In its application to the county council, Met Éireann said it has to re-locate the air monitoring part off the main Ring of Kerry road because the mainland site has become “compromised” by an increase in housing and other development , including a large school, and vehicular traffic in recent years.

The Observatory is located just off the Ring of Kerry a kilometre south of Cahersiveen. Well known long-term residents in the area include former Ceann Comhairle John O’ Donoghue.

The Valentia Observatory is one of the foremost scientific institutes in the country and one of the oldest monitoring stations in the world. It dates to 1860 when it was located on the island and as well as air, it monitors seismology and geomagnetism. Located with some four decades on the mainland, it has retained its island name.

The single storey laboratory near Beenakryraka towards the Bray Head side of the island will be sunk into the ground, protected by a security fence and will also include a ten-metre air monitoring mast, Met Éireann has said.

A decision is due in mid-May, the council planning office indicated yesterday. The period for acceptance of submissions has now closed.


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