More than 350 people have signed a petition urging the British owner of a large historic estate on the Beara Peninsula to facilitate plans for a looped wooded walkway.
Lauragh Community Council is appealing to the owner of Derreen Estate near Kenmare, Co Kerry, to permit temporary signage on a woodland trail to allow the community group “draw down” grant aid.
The estate, with a huge subtropical garden featuring glimpses of the sea and mountains, is owned by Londoner Charlie Bigham, who founded a ready-made take-away food empire under the brand name CharlieBigham’s.
The community body claimed that if the temporary signage is not erected by tomorrow’s deadline, it will lose out on State support.
However, Mr Bigham, whose ancestors, the Landsdownes, once owned the town of Kenmare and much of south Kerry, has dismissed the petition as “confrontational and divisive”.
A frequent visitor to the estate, which is now a popular tourist attraction, Mr Bigham said his ancestors had planted the woods in the first place 150 years ago and, in fact, it was his family’s idea to open up walkways over the past five years.
“We decided it would be nice to open up the area,” Mr Bigham told Radio Kerry yesterday. The way of doing things in Lauragh, he said, was through dialogue but perhaps some people who had moved into the area may not be fully aware of that.
Mr Bigham said the estate, with its 12km or so of wooded walkways through rare trees and giant ferns and rhododendron, was renewing all its signs and paying for those on the new walkway.
The signs the community council wanted to erect were plastic and “generic” and would be a waste of money, as well as being bad for the environment.
Mr Bigham said he was not aware of any grant deadlines until recent weeks.
“Deadlines in Kerry are quite rare things,” he said.
Up to yesterday, 357 people had signed the online petition.
The petition from the community body had stated: “Lauragh Community Council are asking people to request Charlie Bigham who owns the Derreen estate in Lauragh to reconsider and allow temporary signage to be placed on a trail on his land at Doorus Point which has been developed and grant-funded with the agreement of the estate.”
The community council stated it had obtained grant funding of €2,000 last year to open up the walking trail with the consent of Mr Bigham. A further €8,000 was secured this year to finalise the trail on condition the works were completed, signed, waymarked to national standards, and signed off by a July 4 deadline.
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