Celebrity Irish gardener Diarmuid Gavin, whose ‘Westland Magical Tower Garden’ won an award last week at the Chelsea Flower Show, has been asked to visit Co. Westmeath to see the damage being caused to Irish peatlands by his sponsors, Westland Horticulture, UK.
Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] have written to Diarmuid Gavin, who led the UK Government Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ campaign to phase peat out for amateur gardening altogether by 2020. He is on record as saying that “Using peat–free products in the home and garden is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways that people can make a positive environmental impact and reduce their carbon footprint.” Yet his prize–winning garden is sponsored by one of Ireland’s largest peat–producing companies, which is doing untold damage to Ireland’s natural heritage.
A spokesman for FIE, which has a petition before the European Parliament regarding Westland’s activities, said that ‘Westland’s operations are vast – greater than 50 hectares – and are polluting rivers and lakes, including an adjacent Special Protection Area for birds as well as damaging protected drinking water sources. They require an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Licence, which Westland has only just been forced to apply for after many years of operating without a licence.’
‘We have been lobbying for three years here and in Europe to ensure the implementation of a judgment of the European Court of Justice from 1999 which would mean that operations by vast peat extraction companies would be assessed for their environmental impact and properly licensed. A return to the European Court of Justice for Daily fines in 2003 was withdrawn after Irish assurances of compliance. Yet nothing has happened. In one case, a site is still being harvest 13 years after being identified in the European Court’s judgment as operating without legal assessment.
FIE reported Westland to the Environmental Protection Agency three years ago, and in spite of the Agency agreeing that a licence is required the unlicensed operations have continued to increase, pending a seemingly never–ending licensing process.
‘All the while these vast, hugely damaging peat extraction operations continue operating illegally. It is clear as a matter of law,’ says an FIE spokesman, ‘that Westland’s operations in Co. Westmeath cannot legally be granted a licence, in particular given the impacts on the adjacent Special Protection Area for birds.
‘We have even been to the High Court to try and bring Westland and other companies under control here in Ireland. To see a world famous gardener who leads campaigns against the use of peat in gardening accepting support from this company is disheartening in the extreme.’
In a Petition to the EU, FIE claimed that ‘Ireland has failed, generally and structurally, to apply EU law in respect of peat extraction, with significant biodiversity and climate change impacts’. In addition to these impacts, the petition alleges that Ireland’s behaviour represents ‘a direct, persistent challenge to the rule of law in the EU.’
FIE Director Tony Lowes said that ‘We can only hope that Mr. Gavin is simply unaware of what is happening to our peatlands, and we have therefore invited him to join us on a site visit this summer to see in person the scale of these unregulated activities.’
Verification and comment:
Tony Lowes, 027 74771 / 087 217 6316
Letter to Dermot Gavin
Dear Mr. Gavin;
We have been very concerned to discover that you are accepting sponsorship from Westlands Horticulture in the United Kingdom and are afraid that you are not aware of their activities here in Ireland.
Westland Horticulture is one of the biggest extractors of turf from raised bogs in the Irish midlands and they have been doing so for many years without the benefit of an environmental assessment, planning permission, or licence from the Environmental Protection Agency.
We wonder if you would like to accompany us on a site visit this summer so that we can show you the damage that this company is doing to the environment– not only to the flora and fauna and the wider environment, but to drinking water quality.
We would be pleased to arrange the tour for a time which is convenient to you and look forward to hearing from you at the earliest opportunity.
Friends of the Irish Environment
Site Report ion Westland’s operations in Westmeath:
Tpwnland of Coole
Townland of Clonsura
Westland operation in County Westmeath, Ireland