The story of how the Hen harrier became the hostage to the ‘reckless populism of the IFA leadership’ with the areas to be designated reduced from 287,000 hectares to 169,000 hectares. At the demands of the IFA for the ‘constitutional right to achieve optimal returns on your asset’, a further 9,000 hectares of forestry are to be permitted even in the protected areas, though the population fell from 134 to 105 pairs 2000 – 2005 and the Parks and Wildlife Service itself admits that ‘the bottom line is that new planting represents a net loss of foraging habitat'.
In four astonishing maps from 1970 to today, track the loss of this bird and the entirely inadequate final areas proposed for protection under the Bird's Directive.
See FNN 177 on 'The vanishing Hen harrier' and the 'consolidation' of the proposed protection areas.
See Our Press Release: 'Designations won't save Hen harrier'
Listen to FIE on Midland's Radio looking at the background to the designations and the unsustainable national forestry policy that is now 'out of control'.
And see also: Forestry and the fresh water pearl mussel. Irish planting of non-native species in the uplands is now before the European Courts because of the widespread irreversable damage to the Irish environment.
In essence, the site in question is within the curtilage of a protected structure (noting that the Bray Development Plan, P76 specifies that "In relation to a protected structure, the meaning of the term ‘structure' includes the interior of the structure and land lying within the curtilage of the structure").
The site consists of heavily wooded lands that drop steeply down to the River Dargle on the north and to its tributary, the River Swan on the west. An established small development, Glenwood, lies to the west of a public open space along the River Swan. The area has been rich in fauna, including red-squirrel, heron, wood pigeon, dipper, wild duck and bats, as indicated in observations on the planning application of December 2006, submitted by residents to Bray Town Council.
What has now happened is that less than six weeks after the refusal by ABP, works commenced on the site on Tuesday 4th Sept ‘07, with the entry of heavy equipment onto the site. The work is on-going and, despite the protestations of residents, the existing planting has been removed and the site at the protected structure is now denuded of trees and other vegetation. As a result of the ongoing works, the topography of this protected site has been extensively altered. The fear is that a developer might submit a new planning application on the basis that what the site is now effectively a clear site without any "offending" trees.
Contravention of An Bord Pleanála refusal and Bray Development Plan
The removal of the trees flies in the face of both the BTC refusal of planning permission in Jan. 2007 and the refusal of the appeal issued by ABP on 26 July 2007.
Very significantly, the removal of the tree cover is in clear contravention of the current Bray Town Development Plan, which recognises the importance of the views and prospects and of the trees in the Swan River Valley. In his report, Mr Bryan Ward, ABP Inspector, states that "I consider that the woodland on the application site contributes to the appearance of the area and the removal of a significant number of the trees would seriously detract from the visual amenities of the Swan River valley and Dargle River contrary to the Development Plan designation to preserve woodland and trees on the application site." The inspector pointed out that "Notwithstanding the lack of a TPO, a ‘Trees, groups of trees and woodland to be preserved' designation applies to the northern part of the site as outlined on Development Plan map 3. Section 18.104.22.168 of the Development Plan states inter alia that ‘It is the policy of the Council to protect trees, in particular native and broadleaf species, which are of conservation, and/or amenity value. The Council will seek to preserve and enhance the amenity of the town by preserving in so far as possible, that part of its appearance attributable to trees, woodlands, and hedgerows'".
Despite repeated calls by residents to BTC officials, we have been unable to prevent the extensive damage within the curtilage of the protected structure. Put simply, there is a feeling that BTC has failed to enforce its own decision and the appeal refusal by ABP. This is on the basis that the works in hand are just "tree felling". For our part, we think that the heavy machinery and digging equipment clearly indicate that unauthorised development work is taking place.
Proceeding without architectural heritage impact assessment
The on-going actions ignore the views of Development Applications Unit within the Department of the Environment which said, when consulted as part of the planning process, that an architectural heritage impact assessment should be carried out, and that substantially revised proposals should be submitted. The Unit also pointed out that "gardens contribute to the character of protected structures such as this villa, the immediate grounds of the protected structure would be substantially altered, the protected structure was designed as a villa in its own landscaped grounds, it appears that the proposal was formulated with insufficient regard to the effect on the protected structure."
FIE is seeking the intervention of the Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] over the failures of the Irish Certification Initiative to advance sustainable forestry in Ireland. Read the Complaint.
Read the details in our Forest Network Newsletter and FSC-Watch's take on what is happening in Ireland. [FSC Watch is dedicated to encouraging scrutiny of the Forest Stewardship Council's activities. By doing so, it aims to increase the integrity of the FSC's forest certification scheme.]
Letter to the Minister for Finance questioning the calculations used to give the value of forestry's carbon sequestration. This is given as far greater than its timber value. But they fail to address the issue of the loss of the carbon sink when peat soils are afforested - 84% of the planting 1990 - 2000.