25th September 2006
An Bord Pleanála,
64 Marlborough St.,
Re: Kerry County Council planning Reg. Ref 06/2077, 06/2078, 06/2079
We wish to make the following submission or observation opposing each of the three applications above. We enclose the €50 fee with each copy of this submission for a total of €150.00 to object to a single inappropriate development that has been split into these three applications.
Kenmare is a highly successful planned town.
Kenmare is rare in Ireland in that it is a planned town. The planning of Kenmare has been successful in allowing the town to develop attractive streets and a healthy community, making it a pleasant place to live from many points of view, not only the visual.
As the Kerry County Council Development Plan section on Kenmare notes, Kenmare is a town with a high environmental quality. The plan states that
"The town of Kenmare is notable for the design, layout and character of its streets and buildings, and it will be the policy of the Planning Authority to seek to maintain these assest throug the development control process and through constulations with interested parties. All new development/redevelopment shall enhance the existing character and scale of the streetscapes and buildings of Kenmare."
"It will be the Council's policy to protect the scenic amenity of Kenmare from intrusive development of any form and to preserve the existing uninterrupted views and vistas both into and from the town."
In recognition of its high quality natural and built environment, Kenmare has been designated a Heritage Town by Bord Fáilte.
Rinn na gCapall is an area of Historical, Archaeological, Landscape and Amenity Importance
The area in question, including Killeen graveyard, the Shrubberies and Rinn na gCapall is an area of historical and archaeological significance, including the stone circle, a disused graveyard, a former monastic site, the former butter road to the pier, kilns, and possible ringforts. Given the position of the peninsula between the Finnihy river and the Bay, this is not surprising. The archaeological interest includes the Stone Circle (a National Monument) and Killeen graveyard. It is likely that the peninsula was inhabited from the time of the Stone Circle or before. Between the Park Hotel and the golf course, to the east of the Bell Height, are found a ringfort and a souterrain.
Two books covering history in Kenmare and Glanerought provide the following information relevant to the peninsula.
From Sr. Philomena MacCarthy's 1993 book, Kenmare and its storied glen, at pp.27-28:
"When the Irish Church was re-organised after the Synods of the 12th century, the old religious communities called culdees (ceili-De) or Celtic monks died out or were organised as Canons Regular of St. Augustine. The monastery which can be traced at the shrubberies on the left bank of the Finnehy, was probably built by those Augustinians. It is more than likely that they too built the arch, erroneously called Cromwell's bridge‚Ä¶" (copy attached)
From the Marquis of Lansdowne, in Glanerought and the Petty Fitzmaurices (1937), the following can be learnt.
The Industrial Colony of up to 815 Protestant immigrants in what later became Kenmare from 1670 until they fled in 1687 was based to the east of the Finnihy and probably used Cromwell's bridge to access their mines. Whether they used the monastery buildings or not is not clear.
William Shelburne, later Marquis of Lansdowne, landlord of the area from 1761, engaged an American loyalist, Henry Pelham, as agent, and detailed and wide-ranging instructions from him to Pelham remain. A memo of 1775 requires the laying out of "two streets 50 feet wide at right angles." Another includes further instructions for the planning of Kenmare which begin as follows:
"Improvements of the Town (Kenmare)
Mr Pelham to make a general plan for all the peninsula west from the Lodge ground, which whenever it is approved must be considered as unalterable, subject to the following limitations-
1st A very considerable breadth to be left quite vacant round all the Sea Coast and up the river Finney as far as the Smith's Forge.
In 1799, Shelburne engaged William Irvine, a Scotchman to set up a tree nursery and carry out afforestation. (Much of the woodlands in the area had been devastated by being used for smelting ore from the mines.) Lansdowne describes as follows:
"The enclosure at Kenmare, which still goes by the name of the 'Shrubberies', though it has long since ceased to be used as a nursey, was the first fruit of the scheme; it is a remarkable testimony to the excellence of the masonry work of those days that its original walls have survived, little the worse for wear, until the present day."
From this nursery, about a million and a half trees (of twenty hardwood and four conifer species) were planted out by 1816/1817.
The map of Nedeen of 1764 copied in the book is hard to read. However, it appears from the book that a large residence was some distance down the peninsula at 61. The title for 62 seems to read "Lime Kiln Field". Limestone extraction could be the explanation for the strange earthworks in the wooded area to the east of the area applied for in PL 08.100353.
This historical and cultural significance of this site is clear. Clear too is the amenity and landscape importance of the peninsula. It is used by the public as an amenity area and there are established public rights-of-way which must be respected. The views from the Stone Circle (which are presumably the reason for its siting) are an example of the links between the archaeological and landscape value of the peninsula.
The proposed development fails to respect the wisdom of the original plan for the town.
Kenmare works very well. The urban form of the town is a significant contributor to this success. There is no need to change from that successful model. Unfortunately the proposed development does not rely on the tried and tested urban design principles which have served Kenmare so well. It's not broken and should not be fixed. The proposal threatens to undermine this design. We break down our more detailed comments under the following overlapping headings.
1. Lack of permeability / connection to the existing town
It does not provide for sufficient links to the existing streets of the town. There is no link to New Road or Davitt's Place. There is no link to recently permitted residential area immediately to the south of the proposed supermarket. (Indeed this development is likely to lead to the unedifying sight of people driving to a supermarket literally yards from their houses as the crow flies.)
2. Street pattern
Unlike the existing town, there is no clear street pattern in the proposal, easily readable to pedestrians, especially visitors. Possibly one of the reasons for Kenmare's popularity is that it is difficult to get lost in the town.
3. Car-oriented planning
The existing town of Kenmare is an environment designed and scaled for pedestrians. The streets can be crossed comparatively easily, the shopfronts are close together, there are no car parks that have to be negotiated by foot. This is important not just because people can get around the town by foot, but because they can stop where they want. The streets of Kenmare are a welcoming place for people, one in which people are eager to stop to socialise etc. The proposed development starts by putting in a major junction, disrupting pedestrian access to the town from the South. This junction will quite definitely communicate to those on foot that they are secondary in this environment and will upset the balance of the town.
4. Large areas of car-parking
The proposal involves large areas of car-parking. The message from car-parking on this scale is that the area is not a place to live in, but a place to visit. It would create an environment completely alien to the existing town of Kenmare, where at the moment the car is subordinate to people.
5. Complete break of Henry Street building line
The proposal seeks to create an "entrance gateway" at an angle to Henry Street. For some reason there seems to be a desire to emphasise the discontinuity rather than integrate the new development into the town! This is opposite one of Kenmare's finest buildings, the house between the Fáilte Hostel at the corner and the petrol station.
6. Crooked street
One of the distinctive successful features of Kenmare are the straight streets of the town. Henry Street/Bell Height is particularly pleasant as the views at both ends are of the nearby mountains. Main St. and Shelbourne St. are also straight, opening up views. Unfortunately, the application provides for a crooked street, bending immediately after its junction with Henry St. The sketches/photomontages show a confusion of buildings. The distinctive feeling in the existing town of Kenmare of being in an easily readable layout surrounded by mountains would be completely absent.
7. "Urban Square"
The "urban square" involves setting the buildings back from the street and at an angle to it. This leads to building plots with no back garden or yards. This is in direct opposition to the traditional streets with their long plots stretching back from the buildings set on the street. It is hard to understand exactly what the "urban square" is for. There will be very little in it in the way of views, so it will hardly be an enticing place to sit, unlike the green in The Square, or outside tables on Henry St and Main St. which give views of activity on the entire street and also of the mountains viewed along the street.
8. Rear view of Supermarket
Moving west along the street, the public will get views of the loading area and services area, waste facilities etc. of the massive supermarket.
The proposal in total seems to propose a doubling of the existing retail provision in the town. A large proportion of this would be in this massive new supermarket. This is entirely excessive. This supermarket would be highly damaging to the local economy. It would encourage car-based shopping instead of the existing strong tradition of pedestrian-based shopping to small and medium-sized quality specialist shops, general groceries and the Wednesday market. It would be by far the biggest building in the town.
10. Access Roads
As you go further west, the idea of a street is completely abandoned and the design provides for access roads. Any idea of providing a real extension to the town is abandoned and the sheer excess scale of the development in relation to the existing town is revealed.
11. Stone Circle
Friends of the Irish Environment has already campaigned in relation to the planting of garden shrubs and other unauthorised development around the Stone Circle. Unfortunately our letters to Kerry County Council, the Garda S??ochána, Bord Fáilte and the Heritage Council did not lead to any action by these bodies. As we noted in those letters, Cary Meehan in "The Traveller's Guide to Sacred Ireland" (2002) says the circle is "probably the largest in the south-west and it has an impressive boulder dolmen with a huge cap-stone in the centre of the circle. However, it has been domesticated and turned into a feature garden and to me it's like seeing an elephant in a tutu. I'd rather not."
Thankfully, the conifers can be easily removed (and we remain hopeful that the relevant authorities will some day take action.) The current proposal would, however, dwarf by magnitudes these initial inappropriate plantings by placing houses in the view around the circle. If this application were to go ahead, the ring of free standing stones would be dwarfed, its relationship to the surrounding hills and mountains obstructed, and the significance of its cultural history would be permanently impaired
12. Development of the coast
The application envisages development of the coast in two locations and leaves access for further development in the area of the Cill??n. This is directly contrary to the original plan for Kenmare quoted above. The photomontages demonstrate that a number of other elements of the development also conflict directly with this intention that "A very considerable breadth [ ] be left quite vacant round all the Sea Coast and up the river [Finnihy] as far as the Smith's Forge".
The appeal makes something of a deal about the fact that they intend to "Bring Kenmare to the Sea", capitalising it and put it in inverted commas, and generally discussing as if this was a self-evidently positive aspect. As noted above, it is directly contrary to the original intention of the town. Access to the sea from Kenmare is already very good for pedestrians. The traditional recreational walking areas of Kenmare residents are Rinn na gCros and Rinn na gCapall accessed from the Pier. Bringing the urban footprint of the town to the coast is a negative feature of the application.
All of this breadth around the coast should be designated as parkland in a natural and semi-natural state. The significant wildlife value of the peninsula as documented in the EIS also argues for this, as do the photomontages showing the impacts on views from across the Kenmare River and other locations.
13. Phasing and provision for partial completion
Old photographs and postcards of Kenmare demonstrate that in the construction of the existing town many decades elapsed before all plots were filled in on Henry St and Main St. Indeed, although most plots are filled, Shelbourne Street still has not been completed as was probably originally envisaged.
There is no information in the EIS as to the phasing of the development nor as to what would happen if a change in economic circumstances meant the development could no longer be completed as planned and had to be left incomplete.
We hope we have brought to the attention of your Board reasons for refusal of this development that are substantial and undeniable. If this development is implemented, Kenmare would be irreparably damaged, both through the dominant nature of the new constructions and through their direct impact on the existing charm and integrity of the town.
Is mise, le meas,
Friends of the Irish Environment