‘Modules of reflective plate glass more appropriate for Star Wars than Dursey Island’
A plate glass ‘space station’ is planned for Dursey Island, according to Friends of the Irish Environment, the environmental charity whose national offices are nearby on the Beara Peninsula.
The proposal is for the construction of a detached ‘tourist accommodation and facility building’ in the village of Ballynacallagh on the island, currently accessed by an 8-person cable car established by the local priest in the 1960’s.
Details of the new planning application are not online, in spite of the fact that there is now only a week left to make submissions. As listed, the application proposes to incorporate a café, guest accommodation and facilities for walkers and cyclists. The modernistic design, which includes a ‘sculpture pool’, has been described by FIE as ‘stacked modules of reflective plate glass that are more appropriate for Star Wars than Dursey Island.’
The application comes after public consultations have begun for the proposed ‘Dursey Island Cable Car and Visitor Centre Development Project’, a €7m collaborative initiative led by Cork County Council in association with Failte Ireland. This seeks to replace the 8-person cable car with a new system of cable cars with a capacity of 200-300 persons in each direction. 16 passing bays are planned for the 8 km road that leads to the Castletownbere – Allihies road. That proposal also includes plans for a visitor centre with café and ‘exhibition space’ on the mainland and an ‘island side’ station.
A spokesman for FIE said that the restoration of the old island school to provide a public building with visitors facilities on the island was part of the 2010 ‘West Cork Island’s Integrated Development Strategy’. ‘Now this modest approach has been replaced by an angular inter-galacial structure to serve mass tourism that is totally at odds with the very reason people come to Dursey Island.’
The largely uninhabited 7 km Island is protected under the European Natura 2000 designations and is popular with walkers and bird watchers. The island itself supports the largest breeding population recorded nationally of Choughs, a Red Data Book species of international importance, as well as Fulmers, Shag, Herring Gull, Lesser black backed gulls, Razorbacks and Black Guillemots.
‘The whole beauty of Dursey Island is that it is one of the few places in Ireland where people can experience how the previous generation lived. The fisherman and small farmer’s cottages are largely intact in the three villages. The dwellings remain set in fields that have largely not been subject to modern farming intensification. Many earth and stone banks and walls, remnants of formerly more intricate enclosed field systems, remain here that have been lost on the mainland.’
‘Butlers Cycle of Tourism demonstrates that tourism that begins with back packers and walkers ends up consuming the place that drew people there in the first place. More leisure time, increases in disposable income and greater ease of travel are combining to destroy the very attractions people are seeking. The Local Authority and the businessmen behind these projects must rethink their approach to tourism before destroying the unique values which we should be protecting.’