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Water row leaves Beara plans 'sterilised'

February 24th, 2024 9:00 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

A recent winner at The Southern Star's West Cork Business & Tourism Awards has moved to Killarney from Castletownbere (above), due to a lack of housing.

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WEST Cork – and particularly the Beara peninsula – will be ‘sterilised’ of further development unless imminent solutions regarding the safe extraction of water from Glenbeg Lake can be trashed out between Cork County Council, Uisce Éireann, and the National Parks & Wildlife Service, a West Cork councillor has warned.

Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) fired the warning shot at this week’s meeting of the local authority and said there are just ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ regarding the extraction of water from the lake which serves Castletownbere, Eyeries and Ardgroom.

He said it seems no one knows what the safe level of water extraction is in order to protect the pearl mussel that is associated with the special area on conservation lake.

The lake feeds a river which contains the pearl mussel. ‘There’s an extraction licence for 3,000 cubic metres a day granted by NPWS and Uisce Éireann but currently the extraction is between 1,800 and 2,200 daily, which is way under the extraction licence. They need to set a baseline as to what is safe to take out,’ Cllr Murphy later told The Southern Star.

‘Someone needs to do the science on this and they can’t be expecting planning applicants to do it. The three agencies need to establish a safe extraction amount and put in monitoring systems to mind this.’

He pointed out that it’s coming to a head now with several important social and private housing projects in the area being caught while the Department of Marine’s plans for the marina in Castletownbere to include washing facilities was refused planning over a year ago due to water issues.

‘A big business on Dinish island with plans to expand are being asked for further information on their planning, while the Department of the Marine has a couple of sites on the island that people are interested in developing, but they are being stalled too,’ Cllr Murphy said.

His motion asked to clarify the capacity of the extraction volume from Glenbeg Lake supplying Castletownbere, Eyeries and Ardgroom following the adoption of the last County Development Plan. He said this is the main source of water for these settlements and a lack of capacity would seriously undermine the ability of them to develop and grow both housing and economic activity.

He highlighted the plight of a winner at the recent Southern Star’s West Cork Business and Tourism Awards who hails from Castletownbere.

‘She had to move to Killarney as she could not rent a place in Castletownbere and she and her boyfriend are operating from there now.

‘That is another family/business gone from the area because of a lack of housing and investment.’

He said they are facing serious problems in Castletownbere, Eyeries, and Ardgroom evident through planning applications that are going through the system at the moment.

‘I’m not sure is it to do with the Glanmore Bog or the pearl mussel but those seeking planning are being asked to carry out Environmental Impact Assessments (EIS) on their planning applications as to how it will affect either.’

He called for Uisce Éireann, Cork County Council, and National Wildlife Parks & Services to meet and ‘bang a few head together’ to get a solution.

‘This is seriously detrimental and there are too many actors on the field telling us what to do. We are struggling in Clonakilty, Dunmanway and Castletownbere and there is just no joined-up thinking. It was all under one roof before when the Council were in charge of water but now you have too many State agencies with vested interests and they don’t communicate properly.’

Cllr Caroline Cronin (FG) said it’s a massive issue in Castletownbere and there is a huge need for service sites and all type of housing there and across the Beara Peninsula.

Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) described the situation as going ‘backwards and forwards’ and that it is impossible to get all these agencies together to sit around the table and agree on a solution. He said Dunmanway, for example, is being ‘handcuffed’ due to the presence of the pearl mussel and called for an overhaul of the SACs (Special Area of Conservation) which he said have the country crippled.

‘People should have priority over wildlife,’ said Cllr Carroll, who highlighted that they cannot get a breakwater for Baltimore because it’s designated a SAC.

Cllr Deirdre Kelly (FF) said what was most frustrating in Dunmanway is that they had met with officials from Uisce Éireannn and agreed a proposed solution but Uisce Éireann then said the proposal was insufficient and they are back to square one again.

Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said the Castletownbere situation is mirrored in other areas of West Cork.

‘We’re going to see sterilisation right across the region unless we do something about it now,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.

Cllr Karen Coakley (Ind) said West Cork seems to be very badly affected by this with communities stagnated because people can’t build homes.

‘We want to see young life in our communities but if people are being stopped over this issue it’s very difficult to see the progression of rural Ireland,’ said Cllr Coakley.

Divisional manager Michael Lynch said the ultimate solution is outside the Council’s remit and lies with Uisce Éireann.

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