The group Friends of the Irish Environment had urged members of Killarney Municipal Authority to reject the development of a road close to what the environmental group described as one of the most sensitive nature conservation sites in Europe and Ireland.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has applied to the council for permission to build a 1km paved road in the Beaufort area, at the edge of Killarney National Park.
Yesterday, the local municipal authority voted for a material contravention of the county development plan to allow road access to the Tomies Wood area of the park, which is frequented by walkers and wildlife.
Friends of the Irish Environment director Tony Lowes said afterwards that an appeal would be lodged with An Bord Pleanála.
“It is very unfortunate that this device (material contravention) should be used for this controversial development,’’ he said.
“There are concerns that this is part of a bigger plan that could include a bridge and looped walk around the Lakes of Killarney. If that’s a case, this is just a stalking horse for a project-splitting plan which the public should be made aware of.’’
Mr Lowes said it was a Special Area of Conservation, a special protection area for birds, and a natural heritage area with core areas of a Unesco biosphere reserve — defined in the park management plan as ‘a wilderness area composed of a mosaic of wildlife habitats’.
Ancient oakwoods are in the area, which is also a white-tailed eagle habitat, while Greenland white-fronted geese use it as a wintering home.
There was no discussion among councillors on the contravention, which was proposed by authority chairman, Cllr John Joe Culloty (FF), and seconded by Cllr Michael Gleeson (South Kerry Independent Alliance).
It is understood that councillors were briefed behind closed doors by planning officials and that they also visited the location.
Afterwards, Cllr Brendan Cronin (Ind) said there was an onus on elected representatives to ensure proper, legal access to the national park.
“The national park is there for everyone, not just the select few, and proper access is needed for the people,’’ he said.
Members of the Cremin family — landowners whose property is on part of the proposed road — were present in the public gallery.
They are also objecting and lobbied councillors prior to the meeting, claiming the planning application is illegal. “Kerry County Council are already informed that the planning application is on our private lands, without our consent or permission,” they said.
The family also said they had been experiencing extreme coercion from “the State and its selected agents’’.