1. ITV Report

Makers of the new Star Wars film clash with conservationists off the coast of Ireland

The makers of the new Star Wars film have clashed with conservationists over their occupation of a remote island off the coast of Ireland.

The cast of the new Star Wars film. Credit: PA

As filming started on sea-swept Skellig Michael - 12 kilometres off Co Kerry - heritage chiefs and environmentalists have warned about the impact on the rocky outcrop.

JJ Abrams' production company Bad Robot tweeted the picture of the film's clapperboard. Credit: @bad_robot

The steep island, which dramatically rises more than 700 feet out of the Atlantic Ocean, is home to puffins, manx shearwaters and storm petrels as well as Guillemots and Kittiwakes.

The R2D2 robot from the original films. Credit: PA

Film director JJ Adams and actor Mark Hamill - who played Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy - are among the cast and crew on the set of the latest production, Star Wars: Episode VII.

George Lucas filming in 1980. Credit: PA

It is believed shooting on the Unesco World Heritage Site - a former monastic settlement - has been brought forward several weeks, threatening the rare birds which are in the middle of their breeding season. Unesco has contacted the Irish Government asking for a report. Roni Amelan, of Unesco headquarters in Paris, said they want information on concerns about the preservation of the site and particularly any impact on wildlife.

Mark Hamil in 1982. Credit: PA

We can't speculate what the filming of Star Wars on the site will do to the wildlife We just know that this is going on and we have asked for information.

– Roni Amelan, of Unesco headquarters in Paris

Stephen Newton, a seabirds expert with Birdwatch Ireland, said he can't get onto the island to check the important colony because of a massive security lockdown, led by the Irish Navy.

Mr Newton said he was asked by the film producers only days before shooting was to begin if he would help them with an impact assessment to secure permits for filming. But he refused, arguing it would take several weeks to assess, as many of the species breed underground or in rocky crevices where it would be difficult to see what damage is being done.

Skellig Michael. Credit: Google Maps

This is totally inappropriate in terms of the timing. I don't think there was enough assessment on the impact of this, you can't see what is going on. The birds could desert the island if they get too stressed out, by the amount of noise and vibration.

– Stephen Newton, a seabirds expert with Birdwatch Ireland

The conservationist said the island has been "hijacked" for the shoot which is expected to last several days. He has demanded Dublin's Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys publish the expert advice she received before signing off on the necessary consents for the use of Skellig Michael.

Star Wars opens to british Audiences for the first time in 1977. Credit: PA

The Irish Defence Forces confirmed a two-mile exclusion zone has been set up in the waters around the island, which is being patrolled by the 48 million euro LE Samuel Beckett naval ship. Fishermen and other seafarers have been ordered to stay away from the zone until midnight on Wednesday.