Press Release

Friends of the Irish Environment

 

Investigation confirms illegal felling of heritage oaks

 

An investigation into alleged felling of heritage oaks in a protected woodland on Ireland’s largest private estate by the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service has confirmed the felling of 9 oaks ‘between 60 and 80 years old with some older’.

 

The oaks were felled on Lady Georgina Forbes’ Castleforbes Estate on the Shannon River in the autumn of 2015 in spite of conditions requested by the Parks and Wildlife Service prohibiting their felling and requiring their retention. Designated for protection under the Habitats and Birds Directive, the woodland was first recorded in the 17th century.

 

Deputy James Bannon, TD for Longford Westmeath at the time, first raised the issue by tabling a written parliamentary question seeking information about the felling on December 6, 2015. Minister Heather Humphries replied that she would seek a Report on the matter and provide the Deputy with an answer.

 

The subsequent Report by the National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger confirmed the felling of the oaks and the failure to replant the field in question with broadleaves, as requested by the Minister’s National Parks and Wildlife Service.

 

The Report, however, was never provided to the Deputy and the Forest Service was never informed by Minister Humphries’ Department. In response to further questioning by Deputy Clare Daly, the Minister absolved Department of any responsibility, stating that: ‘it is a matter for the Forest Service to determine if there were any breaches of licence conditions and, if so, whether any action needs to be taken in relation to such breaches under the provisions of the Forestry Acts.’

 

The investigation, which only took place after a review of the felling licences by Friends of the Irish Environment resulted in a series of complaint in 2016, determined that no prosecution was now possible because of the passage of time. Current legislation requires a prosecution within one year of the offence arising.

 

In a letter to Clare Daly, TD, who had pursued the matter through Parliamentary Questions on behalf of Friends of the Irish Environment, the Minister also explained that the conditions could also not be enforced as they were contained in a cover letter while the legislation requires any conditions to be contained within the body of a licences. A subsequent question ‘with regard to the conditions of a felling licence issued for the named location’ the Minister stated that she ‘can confirm that new procedures were drafted and have been implemented in the Department.’

 

Friends of the Irish Environment, whose intervention led to an initial halt in felling and investigation in April of this year, welcomed the Forest Services’ new procedures.

 

However the group has written to Minister Humphries, questioning why the Report was not provided to the Guards or the Forest Service and if she will ensure that a protocol is put in place to ensure that this will not happen again.

 

Letter from Minister for Agriculture confirming felling

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/Castleforbes/Castleforbes-Dept-Ag-response-letter.pdf

 

Letter to the Minister seeking assurances

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/forestry/forestry-news/17423-minister-humphries-on-castleforbes-failure-to-report-felling

 

 

Further information: Tony Lowes 353 (0) 27 74771  / 353 (0)87 217 6316

ENDS

 

 

Clare County Council seeks additional information on coastal defence scheme

Doonbeg golf resort in Co Clare. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Doonbeg golf resort in Co Clare. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Doonbeg Golf Resort in Co Clare, from which US President Donald Trump resigned last month, has again run into difficulties with plans for coastal defences.

Clare County Council has sought more information on a scaled-back coastal defence scheme, in a move which the resort developers said could push the project back by up to six months.

Late last year the resort scrapped plans for a major coastal barrier involving a €10 million, 200,000-tonne rock barrier along a 2.8 kilometre stretch of the Doughmore beach, citing delays in the planning process.

At the time the resort said it needed to get a scheme in place urgently to protect the course from further erosion from the Atlantic.

In December 2016 the resort lodged plans for the reduced scheme to protect exposed areas adjacent to the first, ninth and 18th holes on the internationally acclaimed links course. A spokesman for the resort said the smaller plan could be built in 12 weeks.

However Clare County Council has written to both Trump International Golf Links, which owns the resort, and objectors to the revised scheme, seeking additional information in relation to the works which are located in an the Carrowmore Special Area of Conservation, an EU protected habitat.

The resort’s general manager, Joe Russel, said a positive decision on the planning permission would have allowed the resort to “get on with the process” of protecting the course. He said the request for further information could lead to a delay of up to six months.

Speaking about the set back, Mr Russel said: “We are developers, we have been developing here for years, we just have to go with it.”

Friends of The Irish Environment, a group which has objected to the planning application, said the council was seeking a response to a statutory submission from the Parks and Wildlife Service which raised questions about the project.

 

Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment said the authorities have “reiterated the fundamental problem”, which was the conservation objectives for Doonbeg, including maintaining “the natural circulation of sediment and organic matter, without any physical obstructions”.

He said the proposed coastal defences will “prevent the natural circulation of sediment and organic matter by building a physical obstruction”.

He said the submission from the Parks and Wildlife Service points out that on the basis of the “limited scientific evidence presented” it was possible that the proposed development will significantly alter the natural process of erosion and deposition.

“This could lead to adverse effects on the integrity of at least one European conservation site,” he said.

“The applicant has been told twice now in polite language that his proposal is clearly against the legally binding conservation objectives. This developer is banging his head against a wall,” he said.

In the days before he resigned as a director of his commercial holdings prior to being sworn in as US president, Mr Trump gave an interview to The Times of London in which he commented on the Doonbeg planning difficulties.

He said: “I own a big property in Ireland, magnificent property called Doonbeg.

“What happened is I went for an approval to do this massive, beautiful expansion - that was when I was a developer, now I couldn’t care less about it . . . but I learnt a lot because . . . they were using environmental tricks to stop a project from being built. I found it to be a very unpleasant experience.

“To get the approvals from the EU would have taken years.

“I don’t think that’s good for a country like Ireland.”

Four international experts have written to the Clare Champion newspaper publicly calling on Clare County Council to be ‘diligent’ as the beach at Donald Trump’s Doonbeg golf course is ‘still under threat’ from revised proposals.
 
The authors of ‘The World’s Beaches, A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline’, point out that ‘Dune erosion is part of the beach sand supply, and walls interfere with such supply. The short of it is’, they advise, that ‘seawalls destroy beaches and if that ‘solution’ is followed ‘bigger and better’ walls will be needed as the wave size increases and sea-level rises.’
 
The authors conclude ‘We believe that the public may not be aware that, in effect, the proposed work at Doonbeg Golf course project hasn’t really changed and still involves beach-destroying seawalls.’
 
Instead of walls to protect the golf course, the authors recommend that ‘the currently affected holes can be located further from the shoreline if the need arises (most likely at less cost than constructing/maintaining walls). This approach will preserve the beach for future generations, maintain the recreational course, and set a good example for future Irish coastal management in this time of rapidly rising sea levels.’
 
The local and international groups opposing Trump's Doonbeg Wall are being assisted by Save the Waves, an American coalition that works pro-actively with local communities to ensure long term coastal conservation around the world. The #NatureTrumpsWalls coalition will be writing to the Council to object to Trump's latest plan.
 
The groups have written to the more than 100,000 people worldwide who signed a petition against the initial proposal for a 2.8 kilometre wall asking them to support their objection to the Council.
 
The deadline for comment on the new proposal is 3 February, 2017. The website set up for this mass action is at http://www.savethewaves.org/objection/.

 

ENDS
 
Spokespersons:


Save the Waves: Nick Mucha, (US) 00-1-831-345-4837
West Coast Surf Club: Dave Flynn 087-6292335
Friends of the Irish Environment: Tony Lowes 087-2176316

Friends of the Earth: Oisin Coghlan, 087-8529528

 

Notes to the Editor:

 

#NatureTrumpsWalls is a coalition of organizations including Save The Waves, Friends of the Irish Environment, Save Doughmore Beach Group, Friends of the Earth Ireland, West Coast Surf Club, Irish Surfing Association, and Surfrider Foundation Europe.
 
Letter to Clare Champion
 
Dear Editor,
           

Donald Trump’s campaign, and now as U.S. president-elect, has brought publicity to his business dealings, including the TIGL Doonbeg Golf Resort in Ireland and the proposed seawall to combat erosion.  The justification for the wall was the claim the seawall is needed because of climate change and continuing sea level rise. But president-elect Trump has characterized climate change as a hoax, so this rationale for the seawall is hypocritical.  Recently, considerable publicity was given to the fact that the application for the seawall was withdrawn; some claiming a sort of victory.   However, we believe the Council should be diligent as the beach/dune system is still under threat from a revised seawalls plan.
 
Our understanding is that a revised application has been submitted to build two shorter walls (i.e., one 650 meters and one 250 meters long), instead of the original proposed 2.8 km wall. This smaller scale proposal is far from benign.
 
Much international experience has proven that seawalls beget seawalls, and once these smaller walls are constructed, accelerated erosion will occur at the ends of the walls as well as beach steepening and probable narrowing in front of the walls.  Dune erosion is part of the beach sand supply, and walls interfere with such supply.  You will then be faced with applications to extend the “short” walls or to take other actions that will destroy the natural system of this beautiful shore. The short of it is: seawalls destroy beaches and if that ‘solution’ is followed ‘bigger and better’ walls will be needed as the wave size increases and sea-level rises.
 
Given the golf-course developers new seawall proposal, this is not the time for coastal managers to drop their diligence. We believe that the public may not be aware that, in effect, the proposed work at Doonbeg Golf course project hasn’t really changed and still involves emplacement of beach-destroying seawalls.
 
As coastal geologists (all co-authors of ‘The Worlds’ Beaches,’ UC Press), we urge Clare County Council to turn down any request for any seawall or other shore-hardening structures, short or long, to ‘protect’ any part of the golf course. Rather, the currently affected holes can be located further from the shoreline if the need arises (most likely at less cost than constructing/maintaining walls). This approach will preserve the beach for future generations, maintain the recreational course, and set a good example for future Irish coastal management in this time of rapidly rising sea levels.

 

Respectfully yours,

 

William J, Neal, Emeritus Professor of Geology, Grand Valley State University: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke Emeritus Professor of Earth Science, Duke University:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Andrew Cooper, Professor of Coastal Studies, University of Ulster: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Joseph Kelley, Professor of Geology, University of Maine: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

 

Bord na Mona has been accused of ignoring a recent High Court decision by applying for a horticultural processing facility without assessing the impact on the bogs supplying the peat.

 

The application is for a horticultural processing facility on a 2.7-hectare site near Naas in County Kildare.

 

The application to Kildare County Council by Bord na Mona says the project is a joint venture with the Dutch company Legro. ‘Legro are based in Holland and sell potting soils and substrates for the professional and consumer market and is one of largest producers of casing soil for mushroom cultivation with clients all around the world’, according to the application.

 

In its objection, Friends of the Irish Environment point out that the High Court recently ruled in relation to Edenderry Power Plant that the source of the plant’s fuel was required to be considered as part of the application for the continuation of the plant.

 

‘We would suggest to the Planning authority that in view of the planning history of the Edenderry Power Plant, the Local Authority has no choice but to refuse this application until the extraction of the peat required to supply this facility is addressed.’

 

‘The extraction of peat from our bogs reduces their capacity to attenuate downstream flooding, pollutes watercourses and reacts with chlorine in our water treatment plants to produce trihalomethanes, potentially carcinogenic by-products of disinfecting coloured water with chlorine. With 64% of our carbon store in our peatlands, extracting a further 200,000m3 of peat a year for this project will make it increasingly difficult for Ireland to reach its Kyoto targets.

 

‘While Bord na Mona has committed to phasing out the exploitation of bogs for power plants, it shows no sign of any social responsibility when it comes to its’ horticultural division’, a spokesman for the organisation said.

 

Read the Objection   |   See what FIE is doing to stop the extraction of peat in Ireland

 

 

The Judicial Review granted last year by the High Court challenging a windfarm near Donald Trump’s Doonbeg Golf Resort is to be fast-tracked after Mr Justice McGovern made an order admitting the matter into the Commercial Court last week.

 

The application had been refused by Clare County Council to protect the freshwater pearl mussel and this refusal was commended to the Board by its Inspector. However, the Board rejected the Council’s decision to refuse and the Inspector’s recommendations and gave permission for the development.

 

In an affidavit provided to support the application to the Commercial Court the operator, Clare Wind Farms Ltd, said the case must be dealt with ‘as a matter of urgency’ as it is ‘fundamental’ and of ‘critical importance to its commercial viability’. The developer claims that the business case for the windfarm relies upon supports of the government backed REFIT II scheme which requires planning permission to be in place by 1 January 2018.

 

The challenge is being brought by Friends of the Irish Environment, whose first objection against the original 44-turbine development was lodged in 2011 and upheld by the Board after an oral hearing in 2015. The most recent application for an additional 12-turbines was also refused by the Council but granted by the Board in October 2016. FIE’s Judicial Review supports the Council and the Board’s Inspector’s arguments that there was no certainty that fresh water pearl mussel would not be adversely impacted by the development.

 

In an affidavit Dr. Evelyn Moorkens, the NPWS expert on the fresh water pearl mussel and the validator of the national database of non-marine molluscs for Ireland, points out that the assessment of the mussels in the local area was insufficient and that the ground for permitting the use for the first time of a chemical compound to prevent the excavated soil from polluting the water poses in itself a threat to the fresh water pearl mussel.

 

The expert pointed out that not using chemical dosing to prevent the disturbed soil flowing into the river with ‘siltbusters’ or other coagulants has been a ‘mainstay of accepted mitigation practice’. She outlined that these products are ‘usually metals that are highly toxic to the fresh water pearl mussel and can travel many hundreds of kilometres in large European rivers, yet the Board have certainty that they will not travel down a few kilometres to the site of mussels.’

 

Clare County Council gave a further reason for refusing the application as the impact the wind farm would have on the view from the Trump development.

 

US President and owner of the Doonbeg resort Donald Trump called FIE shortly after he purchased the property in 2014 offering his assistance in FIE’s opposition to the wind farm. Trump had recently abandoned plans for extending his Scottish golf resort because of off-shore wind farm developments, which he opposes as ‘environmentally irresponsible’ and a ‘blight on the landscape’. The organisation refused the offer.

 

ENDS

 

Verification: Tony Lowes 087 2176316