Application for waste soils recovery facility and Ecopark in Co. Wicklow refused by an Bord Pleanala
By the refusal of the application for the proposed development of a waste soils recovery facility and Ecopark at Priestsnewtown, Co. Wicklow, An Bord Pleanala have agreed with An Taisce’s position on the issue, in terms of its negative potential impacts. The decision was made based on the assertion by the Bord that;
- “Proposed development would give rise to significant levels of disturbance to the site’s vegetation and ecology and introduce concerns in relation to the potential introduction of invasive species.”
- “It hasn’t been adequately demonstrated that there are no other suitable alternatives for disposal of dredge spoil from the River Dargle Flood Defence Scheme or that the loss of biodiversity on the site has been adequately justified”.
- “It is considered contrary to the Wicklow County Development Plan 2016-2022” and “proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
This substantiates many of the points made by An Taisce in our submission to the application, mainly in relation to likely negative impacts on a number of species of wildlife.
The development had the potential to greatly affect badgers, a protected species, whose presence on site was acknowledged by the EIS of the application. While a badger derogation licence had been issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Services, the development would have resulted in the destruction of five setts and potential interference with others, with a significant chance of causing the collapse of the resident badger population. An Taisce took great issue with the potential loss of this clan of badgers. Badgers are territorial animals and are not capable of simply moving into another territory. Additionally, the survey for the proposal was conducted initially during September with further studies in November 2015, a time-frame which may not have accurately reflected badger activity  An Taisce continue to pursue the National Parks and Wildlife Services on their issuing of the derogation licence which runs counter to their remit to protect wildlife.
The development could also have impacted on other species ‘likely to occur on site’, such as the hedgehog, Irish Stoat, Pine Marten, Pygmy Shrew Red Fox and European Rabbit.
The application also acknowledged the presence of numerous bat species using the site for foraging (but not roosting), such as Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Leisler’s , Natterer’s and Daubenton’s bat. Bats are listed under Annex I of the Habitats Directive and are protected under the Wildlife Act (Amendment) 2000. However, the proposed removal of vegetation (80%) on the site would potentially destroy this foraging habitat.
Another protected species, the otter, could also have been adversely impacted, by effects on water quality, an extremely important consideration in the protection of the species. While the EIS asserted that the two streams on site were not suitable habitat for otter, it also acknowledged that these drained into the nearby Kilcoole Stream and that otters were ‘likely to be utilizing’ it. There is also a historic record of otters using it. Damage to water quality status (and subsequently otter habitat) would have been contrary to the Water Framework Directive and the conservation objectives for otter under Natura 2000.
This development had the potential to create habitat fragmentation, disturbance and run off impacts within the area. The refusal of this application is a successful outcome for biodiversity, particularly in relation to the species mentioned, and is a positive acknowledgement of the ecological value of the area.
Doireann Ni Cheallaigh, Planning Officer of An Taisce stated; “It is important that An Bord Pleanala have recognised the ecological significance of the area and the wildlife present on this site. This is a great result for the local community who have actively campaigned to protect a treasured part of their natural heritage.”
Notes:  National Roads Authority Guidelines state that ‘badger surveys are significantly constrained by vegetation cover and season, and are best conducted from November to April. National Roads Authority (2006),* Guidelines for the treatment of badgers prior to the construction of National Road Schemes*, National Roads Authority, Dublin. http://www.tii.ie/tii-library/environment/construction-guidelines/Guidelines-for-the-Treatment-of-Badgers-prior-to-the-Construction-of-a-National-Road-Scheme.pdf