Appeal Against Grant of Planning Permission


Development: 32 berth marina

Location: Ballyleague, Roscommon [Lough Ree]
The Secretary,

An Bord Pleanala,

Irish Life Building,

Lower Abbey Street,

Dublin 2

11 June, 2001



Appeal Against Grant of Planning Permission


Development: 32 berth marina

Location: Ballyleague, Roscommon [Lough Ree]

Local Authority: Roscommon County Council

Reference numnber: 00/1764

Date of Permission: 11 May, 2001

Applicant: Waterways Ireland


Dear Sirs;


Friends of the Irish Environment and local residents appeal the decision of Roscommon County Council to grant permission for this marina in Lough Ree.


Because the location is a candidate Special Area of Conservation, an Environmental Impact Statement accompanied the application. As my clients were only notified of the development by local residents after the failure of the appeal against the grant of permission for the neighbouring marina of 132 berths, my clients are reserving their right to make a submission on this EIS at the appropriate time, and confine their submission herewith to an outline of the grounds of their appeal.



Grounds of Appeal


The proposed development is located entirely within the confines of the proposed Lough Ree Special Area of Conservation 00440. [The site number is omitted from the EIS, as is the Site Synopsis, which we attach]. The site is also an Special Protection Area under the Birds Directive. The proposed dredging of the lake bed and the spreadlands are all within the boundaries of this cSpecial Areas of Conservation and SPA.


Lough Ree, a part of the River Shannon, is the third largest lake in the Republic of Ireland; it is a glacial lake formed on carboniferous limestone. While the lake is mesotrophic in nature, its size [13,626 hectares] and geology mean that a range of conditions apply and species indicative of oligotrophic, mesotrophic, eutrophic and base rich situations occur.


Its importance for nature conservation in Ireland is indicated by its designation both as an cSpecial Areas of Conservation and as an SPA.


Listed species

Scarce plant species abound, including the Water Germander (Teucrium scordium), a rare plant species almost confined to this lake and Lough Derg.


The lake contains one of only two populations of Pollan (Coregonus autumnalis), which is genetically different from the European stock. The shrimp (Nysis relicta) which is a relic of the glacial period in Ireland is also present, although this and a number of other flora and fauna species listed in the Site Synopsis are missing from the EIS Table 3.2.


In terms of birds, the site is of international importance through overall numbers - over 20,000 - and because of the species present. 15 of the species listed in the EIS as being present on the Lough are of national importance. The number of Whooper Swan have increased substantially since the 6 counts taken in 1984 - 1987 [Site Synopsis and EIS Table 3.3].


While it is recognized that otters are present on Lough Ree, a site inspection on 9 June, 2001 showed what appeared to be active holts within the site on the areas identified for spreadlands, contradicting the EIS statement that "no impact on mammals are anticipated." This, and an unusual orchid on the spreadlands, have been photographed and will be reported to Duchas as has the presence of a skylark in the hedgerow.


Given the statement in the underwater archaeological survey that the "lakebed of the shore consists largely of small stones" the absence of stoneworts (chara spp, including C. pedunculata) is unlikely, and the presence of the rare stonewort (Chara tomentosa) possible.


The developer states that "boat traffic within Lough Ree is tending to increase, and cumulative impacts from marina developments and an increase in watersports generally may impact on sensitive species such s common scooter ands common terns in the future". [EIS 4.2.2] The Lough Ree tern colony is listed as one of the largest tern colonies on midland lakes [Site Synopsis] and the site holds 35% of the national stock of scooters


Archaeological

The quality of the assessment is so poor in the archaeological section that we are at a lose to understand what form of "assessment" has taken place. [EIS 3.9.1 Underwater archaeology] The "piece of timber" recovered from the sub aquatic investigation is "a curved boat timber" with "ten iron nails". No date is suggested and no assessment is made of this "piece of timber". While further investigation is "required" to "see if there are more remains of the boat" this appears not to have been done. The purpose of an Environmental Impact Statement is to determine before the project commences the impact of the development. This can not be done if such matters are left to investigations after development consent has been given.


Siltation

Lough Ree and its adjacent habitats are of major ecological significance. [Site Synopsis]. Land use already includes recreation in the form of cruiser hire, angling, camping, picnicking, and shooting. [Site Synopsis]


The developer omits to mention that the "main threat to the aquatic life in the lake comes from the artificial enrichment of the water by agriculture and domestic waste, and also by silt in suspension which is increasingly limiting the light penetration, thus restricting aquatic flora to shallower waters". [Site Synopsis]


There is no mention of suspended sediment in the EIS, which confines its concerns over the impact on fauna of the construction phases to the smothering of fish eggs which it suggest can be avoided by the use of a closed season for construction and geotextile curtains around the proposed lagoons. This does not address the "main threat to the aquatic life in the lake" which will occur during the dredging operations whatever the timing of the dredging operations and will be compounded by the silt content of the water returned from the proposed lagoons.


It is not sustainable for the developer to contend that "it could be argued that compensatory measures should be adopted because it has been decided to locate the marina within the Lough Rea cSpecial Areas of Conservation" but that this is not to be done because "the proposed marina development will not impact significantly on the cSpecial Areas of Conservation."


To suggest that the dredging of 1.3 hectares of the bed of an cSpecial Areas of Conservation and the dewatering of 16,000 cubic metres of dredge spoils will not impact significantly on the cSpecial Areas of Conservation is difficult to comprehend. It is even more difficult when the EIS states that it has "not been possible to compile definitive information on the dredging operation or the dewatering of the material".


Effluent Disposal

To suggest that the facility will have no significant impact on the cSpecial Areas of Conservation is equally unsupportable, given that it will directly facilitate longer stays by tourists in the cSpecial Areas of Conservation and so increase nutrient loading both on the local waste water treatment plant and directly into the lake.


The calculations used in Appendix 3 for the foul and grey water calculations suggest a "net" increase of only 20 boats on the grounds that displacement from the nearby amenity area will occur. This is hardly likely, if the figure of 5,000 leisure boats on the River Shannon are correct. The effluent calculations are themselves based on 25 boats when the capacity of the marina is 32 boats.


But critical to this development is the fact that the Waste Water Treatment Plant at Ballyleague is a very old system and entirely out of date. It has rudimentary secondary treatment only and for this reason is at capacity, which can only be judged by the water quality at the exit point. We are seeking the current test results which have been compiled as part of the Lough Derg / Lough Ree Study. We would be concerned for the quality of the water in this area of the Lough where the waste water treatment plant exits given the presence of the green alga cladophora recorded in the EIS and present during our site visit.


While the local authority is to be commended in addressing the situation in the country of poor quality waste water treatment plants at Boyle, Roscommon, and Monkstown, resources have not yet been able to be allocated for the smaller older treatment plants such as the one at Ballyleague. The increase in loading to the waste water treatment plant, its age and condition, are nowhere addressed by the developer. The provision of additional facilities for tourist on the Shannon must be linked to waste water treatment plants that have phosphate removal tertiary systems in the interest of the proper planning and development.


Conclusion

A discussion of compensatory measures is unnecessary because the development must be refused under the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. There is no reason for this development even in spatial planning terms, given the recent approval of a 132 bed marina on the other side of the Lanesborough Bridge. In any case, there is no aspect of public importance contained in his development that would allow the project to even be considered for approval because of any compensatory measures.


For this development to have been proposed by a public authority is a matter with serious implications prompting the gravest concerns. To put within the boundaries of an cSpecial Areas of Conservation a facility that will through its construction and operation directly adversely impact on a site of European importance is an infringement of both Directives and must be refused.


cc: The Director, Unit 4B Legal Affairs, Directorate Environment, European Commission, 2001 Brussels, Belgium



SITE SYNOPSIS



SITE NAME : LOUGH REE


SITE CODE : 000440



Lough Ree is the third largest lake in the Republic of Ireland and is situated, in an ice-deepened depression in Carboniferous Limestone, on the River Shannon system between Lanesborough and Athlone. Some of its features (including the islands) are based on glacial drift. It has a very long, indented shoreline and hence has many sheltered bays. Although the main habitat, by area, is the lake itself, interesting shore-line, terrestrial and semi-aquatic habitats also occur.


The greater part of Lough Ree is less than 10m in depth, but there are six deep troughs running from north to south, reaching a maximum depth of about 36m just west of Inchmore. The lake has been classified as mesotrophic in quality, but the size of the system means that a range of conditions prevail depending on, for example, rock type. This gives rise to local variations in nutrient status and pH, which in turn result in variations in the phytoplankton and macrophyte flora, and species indicative of oligotrophic, mesotrophic, eutrophic and base-rich situations occur. The water of Lough Ree tends to be strongly peat-stained, restricting macrophytes to depths of less than 2m, and as a consequence, macrophytes are restricted to sheltered bays, where a typical Shannon flora occurs. Species present include Inter- Mediate Bladderwort (Utricularia inter- Media), Pondweeds (Potamogeton spp.), Quillwort (Isoetes lacustris), Greater Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza), Stoneworts (Chara spp., including C. pedunculata) and Arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia). The latter is a scarce species which is almost confined in its occurrence to the Shannon Basin.


Reedbeds of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) are an extensive habitat in a number of more sheltered places around the lake, but single-species 'swamps' consisting of such species as Common Club-rush (Scirpus lacustris), Slender Sedge (Carex lasiocarpa), Saw Sedge (Cladium mariscus) and two scarce species of Sedge (Carex appropinquata and C. elata) also occur in suitable places. Some of these grade up into species-rich calcareous fen with Black Bog-rush (Schoenus nigricans) and Whorl-grass (Catabrosa aquatica), or freshwater marsh with abundant Water Dock (Rumex hydrolapathum) and Hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum).


Lowland wet grassland is found in abundance around the shore and occurs in two types. One is 'callowland', grassland which floods in winter. This provides feeding for winter waterfowl and breeding waders. The other is an unusual community on stony wet lakeshore all around the lake, and is characterized by Water Germander (Teucrium scordium), a scarce plant species almost confined to this lake and Lough Derg.


Dry, broad-leaved, semi-natural woodland occurs in several places around the lake, most notably at St John's Wood and on Hare Island. St John's Wood is recognised as the largest and most natural woodland in the Midlands. Its canopy is dominated by Hazel (Corylus avellana), Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), but a range of other trees and shrubs occur, including Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra), Yew (Taxus baccata), Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) and Irish Whitebeam (Sorbus hibernica). The ground flora of St. John's Wood is species-rich, and is remarkable for the presence of two species, Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) and Bird's-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis), which tend to occur in sites with a long history of uninterrupted woodland cover. The tree species composition on Hare Island is similar to that in St. John's Wood, with additional non-native species such as Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) and Beech (Fagus sylvatica). This wood also has an exceptionally rich ground flora. Some of the smaller areas of woodland around Lough Ree are mixed woodland with a high percentage of exotics such as Beech. Some areas of well-developed Hazel scrub also occur.


Pockets of wet woodland occur around the lake: most of these are dominated by Willows (Salix spp.), Alder (Alnus glutinosa) and Downy Birch (Betula pubescens). In one such wood, at Ross Lough, the terrestrial alga, Trentopohlia spp, has a specialised niche on the Willow trunks, while the ground layer has a rich bryophyte flora (Acrocladium spp. and Sphagnum spp.), scattered clumps of Greater Tussock-sedge (Carex paniculata) and a good diversity of herb species, including Water Dock (Rumex hydrolapathum) and Fen Bedstraw(Galium uliginosum).


Small areas of limestone pavement are scattered around the lake, and in some areas have associated dry grasslands rich in orchids. These habitats are given priority status on Annex I of the European Habitats Directive. Small examples of raised bog occur, which are of interest in that they show a natural transition through wet woodland and/or swamp to lakeshore habitats. Smaller lakes occur around the lakeshore, especially on the east side, and these often have the full range of wetland habitats contained within them. A number of small rivers pass through the site.


The site supports a number of rare plant species which are listed in The Irish Red data Book. Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) and Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) are woodland components at St. John's Wood and elsewhere. Narrow-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) and Betony (Stachys officinalis), which is legally protected under The Flora Protection Order (1987), occur among the ground flora of Hare's Island (where the former occurs in notable abundance) and a number of other woods. The Stonewort (Chara tomentosa) is present in shallow water around the lake, and Marsh Pea (Lathyrus palustris) occurs on some of the callowland. The rare moss, Shining Sicklewort (Drepanocladus vernicosus), which is listed on Annex II of the European Habitats Directive, occurs in an area of alkaline fen within the site.


The lake itself contains one of only two populations of the endangered fish species, Pollan (Coregonus autumnalis), which is genetically different from Continental European stock. The shrimp (Crustacean) Mysis relicta occurs in this lake and is a relict of the glacial period in Ireland.


Small flocks of the internationally important Greenland White-fronted Goose use several areas of callowland around the lake in winter. An average spring count of 92 individuals was obtained for this species over the six seasons 1988/89 to 1993/94, indicating that Lough Ree is a nationally important site for this species. The callowland is also used by Black-tailed Godwit and others on migration. The following bird counts are derived from 6 counts during the period 1984/85 to 1986/87. Nationally important populations of Wigeon (1,306), Teal (584), Tufted Duck (1,317), Coot (798) and Golden Plover (1,350) occur. Other winter visitors are Bewick's Swan (4), Whooper Swan (32), Mute Swan (91), Little Grebe (48), Cormorant (91), Mallard (362), Shoveler (40), Pochard (179), Goldeneye (97), Curlew (178), Lapwing (1,751) and Dunlin (48). Some of the lake islands provide nesting sites for Common Tern, a species listed on Annex I of the European Birds Directive. The Lough Ree colony is estimated as one of the largest of this species on midland lakes.


The lake also provides excellent breeding habitat for wildfowl, including Common Scoter, a rare breeding species listed as "Endangered" in The Red Data Book, and Tufted Duck.


The woodlands and scrub around the lake and on the islands are a stronghold of the Garden Warbler, a bird species mainly confined to the Shannon Lakes in Ireland.


There is a population of Otters around the lake. This species is listed in the Red Data Book as being threatened in Europe and is protected under Annex II of the European Habitats Directive.


Landuses within the site include recreation in the form of cruiser hire, angling, camping, picnicking and shooting. Chalet accommodation occurs at a few locations around the lake. Low-intensity grazing occurs on dry and wet grassland around the shore and some hay is made within the site. Some of these activities are damaging, but in a very localised way, and require careful planning. The main threat to the aquatic life in the lake comes from artificial enrichment of the waters by agricultural and domestic waste, and also by peat silt in suspension which is increasingly limiting the light penetration, thus restricting aquatic flora to shallower waters. At present Lough Ree is less affected by eutrophication than L. Derg.


Lough Ree and its adjacent habitats are of major ecological significance. Some of the woodlands around the lake are of excellent quality and include some of the best examples of this habitat in Ireland. St. John's Wood is particularly important, as it is considered to be one of the very few true candidates for ancient woodland in Ireland. The lake itself is an excellent example of a mesotrophic to moderate-eutrophic system, supporting a rare fish species and a good diversity of breeding and wintering birds.


18.2.1997














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