18 March 2017
Work at the UK’s proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant is under threat after investigation of a complaint to a UN Committee by the Irish environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment and a German Member of the Bunderstag German MP Sylvia Kotting-Uhl.
Following the UK Government's decision to approve the Hinkley Point C power plant without consulting the affected public in Ireland and other European Countries, FIE complained to the United Nations Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context in March 2013 that we in Ireland had been deprived of our right to be consulted by the UK before constructing the first of a new series of nuclear power plants
The UN Espoo Convention, signed in the Finish city of Espoo in 1991, requires that the Party of origin ‘shall ensure that the opportunity provided to the public of the affected Party is equivalent to that provided to the public of the Party of origin.’ Ireland is signature to the Convention.
No such consultation took place before construction began on the UK nuclear plant. The Committee up held the complaints and ruled in June 2016 that the UK Government had failed to ensure that citizens of neighbouring countries had an equal right to be consulted about the proposed nuclear plant.
The Committee recommended that the United Kingdom contact neighboring governments to determine if they wished to be consulted as part of a transboundary EIA procedure. The Committee also decided to recommend to the Meeting of the Parties that if a potentially affected Party requests to be notified, the United Kingdom should suspend works related to the proposed activity until the transboundary EIA procedure is finalized.
According to information obtained by Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, the UK accordingly wrote to neighbouring countries 21 December, 2016. The MP confirmed that three countries – Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands - had responded seeking such a procedure, triggering the request to suspend work.
Ireland’s position from 2013 is that since the United Kingdom had concluded ‘the likely impacts determined through a thorough EIA do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary’ that the requirements under the Convention regarding notification to other States did not arise and formal notification was not necessary.
Citing the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland [RPII] report and the subsequent ESRI 2016 study on "The potential economic impact of a nuclear accident - An Irish case study", FIE has written to Minister Naughten asking him what response Ireland made to the 21 December 2016 letter from the UK.
In its letter to the Minister, FIE drew attention to the UK’s decision of January 2017 to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty and sought reassurances ‘that policy changes have been made since 2013 to support the right of Irish citizens to partake in trans-boundary decisions.
‘The current Japanese liability for the continuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster stands as a stark warning against those, like the Irish Government, who accept the UK arguments that trans-boundary risks are so small as not to require assessment. Despite this, the Irish Department of the Environment and successive Ministers have sought to wash their hands of this matter. It is now up to Minister Naughten to stand up for public safety and to assert the rights of Irish citizens to participate in a transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment.’
Comments: FIE Tony Lowes 087 2176316
Sylvia Kotting-Uhl MP, Spokesperson on nuclear policy issues, Parliametary group Alliance 90/The Greens Tel +49 30 227 747 42
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.
“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.
March 16 2017
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.”
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
Letter to the Minister seeking assurances
Further information: Tony Lowes 353 (0) 27 74771 / 353 (0)87 217 6316
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.