Concern over felling of mature oak trees at Longford estate

Investigation as at least nine trees up to 80 years old cut down on Castleforbes estate

Campaigners for the environment have expressed concern about the felling of at least nine mature oak trees up to 80 years old in the grounds of the Castleforbes estate in Co Longford.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has confirmed an investigation into the felling on a 7.07-hectare area of woodland last year has been completed.

Friends of the Irish Environment complained in April last year about the felling, which was being conducted under a licence, after work allegedly continued into the bird-nesting season. However, after an investigation, work was resumed as no condition to protect the birds had been included in the felling licence.

Work ceased again in June 2016 after two letters from the National Parks and Wildlife Service were sent to the Minister requesting a halt to the works.

In a letter to Independents4Change TD Clare Daly last month, Mr Creed’s private secretary noted the investigation arose following complaints received about the reported felling of oak and replanting with Sitka spruce at the estate.

“The investigation concerned a 7.07-hectare area of woodland falling under a general felling licence, issued 2nd September 2014.”

The letter said the felling licence referred to a submitted woodland management plan that proposed the felling of Sitka spruce and birch.

Evidence

“Furthermore, the cover note that accompanied the felling licence, while having no legal status, stated that all oak, holly and rowan be left standing,” it continued. “There was therefore no legal consent given for the felling of oak trees. The forestry inspector for the area has now confirmed that there is evidence of at least nine oak trees felled along the periphery of the area.”

The letter noted an inconsistency between the felling licence and its cover note with regard to what trees were to be replanted, and said this inconsistency was “unsatisfactory”.

Procedures were being put in place to ensure that felling licences were clear in relation to exactly what was required of the licensee, the letter added.

“Due to the passage of time, the pursuit of an alleged illegal felling case is not possible in this instance. However, the landowners have agreed with the department to replace a portion of the replanted Sitka spruce with native Irish oak, to ensure that over 10 per cent of the total plot area comprises newly planted oak.”

 

Mark Connellan of Rawdon Estates said he could confirm “emphatically” that the company had complied fully with all its legal requirements in felling trees at the Castleforbes estate.

Elaine Edwards

Irish Times

March 16 2017

 

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

 

 

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

 

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.