Kerry Association AGM

The Kerry Association held its AGM recently on 18 October in Killarney. We were glad to see some new faces in the attendance, as well as our regular supporters. The Chairman, Mattie Cronin, welcomed all to the meeting before introducing the Officers. The Secretary, Bernard Goggin, reported on the oral hearing regarding upgrading of the Dingle to Annascaul road, where he represented An Taisce. The changes proposed would have been very damaging to the environment and he was glad to say that the plans were rejected by An Bord Pleanala.

The Treasurer, Donal Corkery, reported that our closing balance at the bank was considerably less than the opening balance as our expenses were high during the year. However, the income from our two main fund-raising activities, a Flag Day and the sale of 'Chief Seattle' posters, was only lodged very recently and did not appear in the bank statement. We expect to have at least €1,000 in the account to fund future activities.

Planning reports were given by Maeve O'Donnell (covering Tralee TC) and Catherine McMullin (rest of county) Maeve, and the 'Save the Green Committee', had great success in stopping a new road impacting on the Town Park. Catherine reported that the number of planning applications referred to An Taisce continues to fall but many are large scale projects, which require considerable study. As well as wind farms, other energy related proposals, such as quick response electricity generators and new substations, were examined during the year.

In Killarney, we were notified about two welcome developments in the National Park, the restoration of Killarney House for use as a Visitor Centre and the re-creation and expansion of its original gardens. There are also restoration plans by the new owner of Reen Cottage, an old gate lodge which has been sadly neglected in recent years. We have appealed a proposed Car Park on Failte Ireland lands opposite Liebherr on the grounds it is an inappropriate development in a high amenity area.

The Kerry County Development Plan is being reviewed at present and a Renewable Energy Strategy has been adopted for inclusion. It includes a re-zoning of the Stacks Mountains from 'Preferred' to 'no go' for wind farms, following on its designation as a Special Protection Area for the Hen Harrier. Less welcome is the zoning of some scenic parts of the Iveragh Peninsula as 'open to consideration'.

Another contentious item in the new Plan will be rural housing. The Kerry Association is actively involved in An Taisce's Built Environment Committee with the preparation of an updated policy on this subject.

An Taisce is represented on a number of local groups and reports were given on the following :

Lough Leane Working Group.

Monitors the condition of L. Leane. There have been no significant pollution incidents for some years but the lake continues to receive phosphorous from unidentified sources. There was concern that the warm weather this summer would create ideal conditions for an algal bloom but, fortunately, there were no problems.

Community and Voluntary Forum

The C & V sector provides a wide range of services to local communities but organisations are finding it difficult to access funds because of the amount of 'red tape' involved. Some funding comes for the Development Partnership s but the proposed changes to Local Government could make it much more difficult to obtain.

Economic Planning and Development Strategic Policy Committee.

This committee consists of Councillors and representatives from Environment, Business/Commercial, Agriculture and Trade Union. Matters dealt with during the year included Quarries, Housing Estates (particularly 'Ghost Estates'), flood risk management, Development Plans etc. all of interest to An Taisce in its planning work.

Killarney National Park Liaison Committee.

Includes representatives from tourism, boatmen, business, environment etc. Margery Long represented us on this Committee for many years but is no longer able to attend. We would like to thank Margery for all her excellent work for the Kerry Association. Recent meetings dealt with possible pollution of L. Leane, location of proposed tree planting, poor condition of roads in the national park, lack of funding.

Any Other Business

Donal Corkery asked what was being done about An Taisce's property at Killaha. Bernard reported that he had visited the site earlier today with Andrew Jackson and an Environmental Engineer, John Hickey. A long term plan is being worked on at present.

Guest Speaker.

Our Guest Speaker was Andrew Jackson, the new Environment Policy Officer for An Taisce. He gave a most interesting talk, illustrated with numerous slides, about Peat Extraction and its effect on the environment. Degraded peatlands continue to give off carbon dioxide. Despite the compensation measures introduced on all SAC bogs, very few are fully protected. 8 bogs have EU Life Funding but 7 are still actively cut. At least 17 sites are being cut by machinery. Extraction from an area greater than 50 ha requires an IPPS licence but, except for Bord na Mona, none have been applied for. Enforcement is a problem unless one has good evidence. Anyone can take a case under Sect. 160. An Taisce is to make a complaint under the Aarhus Convention.

Next Meeting

Following on the AGM we would like to remind all members of the Kerry Association that they are welcome to attend our monthly meetings, which are held on the first Thursday of the month at 8.00 p.m in Maeve O'Donnell's house, 16 Denny St., Tralee.