Council rezones historic land despite protests

THE views of an Oxford University professor and the county manager have been ignored by Kerry councillors, who have agreed to rezone historic demesne lands for residential purposes.

The demesne is in the mid-Kerry village of Milltown, a fast-growing area which has seen major housing development in recent years, taking a spillover from bigger towns such as Killarney and Tralee.

Professor Roy Foster described a local area plan for Milltown as a “developer’s charter aimed at turning an integrated Irish village environment into a faceless commuter suburbia”.

The councillors were also criticised by Kerry County Manager Martin Riordan, who said councillors were making piecemeal decisions and “making it up as they go along” in regard to serious planning and zoning issues.

“I haven’t heard one rational argument made on planning and sustainable development grounds, just submissions by landowners for rezoning,” said Mr Riordan during a debate on the issue.

Senior planning engineer Tom Sheehy claimed that councillors were ignoring the common good and instead supporting individual landowners who wanted to a build a few houses.

Mr Sheehy strongly opposed a proposal by Fine Gael Councillor Tom Sheahan that the land inside Milltown demesne be zoned as residential.

Mr Sheehy said the council had always maintained the integrity of the demesne and a residential rezoning would mean that Milltown would not have a district amenity in the future. He also warned that the land was prone to flooding.

Prof Foster, the Carroll professor of Irish history at Oxford, feared new houses would be crammed around an already fragile social ecosystem in Milltown, while there was no commitment to vernacular architecture.

However, the council voted to rezone the lands.

They also voted in favour of realigning a route for a possible bypass road, despite being told by planners that this could put the proposed bypass at risk at a cost of millions to the taxpayer.

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