Water case complex and important, says judge

A judge described legal proceedings being brought by a small rural community against a local authority and An Bord Pleanála as “very complex and important for all concerned’’.

An action by people in Bonane, Co Kerry, against Kerry County Council and the planning appeals board was due to start at the Circuit Court, in Killarney, yesterday, and was expected to take three to four days.

However, the hearing was adjourned by Judge Pauline Codd to allow for an exchange of documents between the parties.

Seventeen named people are challenging the council’s proposal to take water from the River Sheen to supply Kenmare town and surrounding areas. An Bord Pleanála gave the proposal the green light, in late-2011.

Judge Codd told counsel for the sides that three major issues were to be determined and it would save an immense of amount of time if documents were exchanged before the parties started giving evidence.

She directed the sides to exchange affidavits of evidence within two weeks of yesterday’s date and that legal submissions be exchanged within a week of the affidavits being received.

“I think that would be a much more efficient way (of dealing with the case).’’

Judge Codd also said she would ask to be assigned to hear the case on days to be specified, next term.

People in Bonane, lying between Kenmare and Glengarriff, Co Cork, are claiming a full environmental impact assessment should have been carried out before the go-ahead was given for the water abstraction.

Efforts to locate supplementary supplies for popular tourist town Kenmare, which is short of water, have been continuing for almost a decade.

But the proposal to take water from the River Sheen has been firmly opposed at all stages, with mountain lakes being suggested as alternative sources.

An oral hearing into the proposal, in Apr 2011, heard objections from farmers, anglers and environmentalists, as well as an inspector from the fishery authority.

However, the appeals board ruled in the council’s favour, saying there would be no significant impact on the environment. It capped the abstraction at 2,500 cubic metres in any 24-hour period and said abstraction should cease altogether when the river was low.

The river rises in a special area of conservation and flows into Kenmare Bay, also a special area of conservation The following are plaintiffs in the action: Danny O’Connor, Hilde Rischode, Dolly O’Reilly, Sheila Lovett, Denis McCarthy, Declan Fitzmaurice, John Reilly, Jill Kirby, Mary Lucey, Alan Kirby, John Joe O’Brien, Stephen O’Sullivan, Patricia O’Sullivan, Pat O’Sullivan, David Reilly, John Skilling and Patsy O’Sullivan.

They are represented by Oisín Collins. Shane Roche is acting as counsel for the council and Bord Pleanála.

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