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.”

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

 

 

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. 

 

 

It is for their rivers and their lakes “fair jumping with salmon” that playwright Frank Mc Guinness’s Ulstermen charge to their death in the Battle of the Somme.

In his play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, revived for 2016 in theatres in Dublin and Belfast and London, he located his Ulstermen going into their tragic battle as natives of this beautiful island, springing from its soil and sustained by its waters.

This was a huge and important imaginative leap for a playwright who grew up on the border during the Troubles, in a Catholic, nationalist tradition which explicitly rejected the Protestant tradition as an invasive species.

Why does this memory keep recurring as we prepare to leave 2016 behind? Because the most unlikely outcome of this year of remembrance is that a United Ireland is back on the agenda. And for me it is back on the agenda because we live on a small island and nature knows no borders.

Arts offered authentic retrospection, unlike State, media, and academia

People are talking of “hard” and “soft” borders but few seem concerned at the possible impact of Brexit on Ireland’s environment. There is next to no environmental law which does not originate in the EU.

As Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment says, without EU environmental law “We are the emperor with no clothes”. And he points to the interesting fact that Northern unionists may have fiercely rejected union with the South but have not rejected being ruled by EU law.

With Northern Ireland out of the EU the Assembly will not have to translate EU directives into national law. They can even take out the bits that are in there.

This would impact implementation of the Water Framework Directive which protects our freshwater systems and the Habitats Directive which protects our biodiversity on this side of the border. In some cases and in some places it would make implementation impossible.

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew says the implications of Brexit for the North’s environment have made some steadfast unionist Greens, who even campaigned against the Greens becoming an all-Ireland party in 2004, call for a United Ireland.

Coming himself from a strong loyalist community, he says he experienced the Brexit vote as a body blow. With the leaders of Alliance, Sinn Fein and the SDLP he has taken a case, which is being considered by the UK Supreme Court, that triggering Article 50 to leave the EU is inconsistent with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Control in an independent state in the context of the international environmental challenge is a nonsense”, he says.

Because Northern Ireland’s environmental law is completely devolved and he worries where a DUP-led administration will lead when it comes to the environment: “Sammy Wilson’s attitude is we are responsible for 3% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, we can do whatever we like”, he says.

Every time the North backs out of a commitment under EU environmental legislation the whole island will be impacted. Agnew points to the implications for water quality of the Assembly vote to stop installing water metres in new houses.

We are as bad ourselves, of course. The Republic’s implementation of the Water Framework and Habitats Directives has been so poor that in many cases the directives might as well not have been there.

But they are there. That is important. The directives and our EU commitments on climate change are the only hopes we have that this island can ever be prosperous, peaceful, clean and green.

The truth is that even if there is no “hard” border for people there will be a renewed attempt to draw a “hard” border for natural resources. There has been a dispute between North and South about the ownership of the waters of Loughs Foyle and Carlingford, for instance.

After the Good Friday Agreement it was kicked to touch by way of the Loughs Agency. But the Brexit vote was barely in before the new secretary of state of Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire was claiming that all of Lough Foyle was in the UK.

Louth county councillor Mark Dearey (GP) thinks it’s quite possible the UK will attempt to claim Carlingford Lough as well as there is dispute as to where the high water mark is and what it means for control of the lough.

He paints a compelling picture of how interconnected our natural resources are along the border: “Three-quarters of Co Louth is in the Neagh/Bann River Basin. The River Fane rises in Monaghan, flows to Armagh, it is the border for seven miles before ending up in Co Louth where it supplies 40,000 people with their drinking water.”

There is already evidence of diesel-laundering going on along the border and affecting water quality to the point that it is explicitly monitored before the water reaches the taps. Dearey accepts the EU water directive is not working as it should.

But he says Brexit threatens every shred of regulation protecting natural resources in border counties. As an example he mentions the “toothless” Loughs Agency and says mussel dredging is still happening in Carlingford Lough where bird life is being affected.

But having an agency which could potentially co-ordinate North and South to protect the Lough is far better than having none.

The possible implications of Brexit for the natural environment of this divided island go on and on. Dearey questions whether Northern farmers will continue to accept an intervention price for their beef, for instance.

Will there be pressure on them to compete globally by using growth hormones and how could the South protect its food chain?

Brokenshire has already said the UK will withdraw from the EU Common Fisheries Policy and it is policy which few environmentally-minded people can support.

But what fair and sustainable fishing policy is possible in our waters if UK fishermen are not part of it? The fish don’t observe any borders and rising water temperatures are changing their migratory habits.

Who and how will disputes between Irish and UK fisherfolk we resolved if the UK does not recognise the European Court of Justice?

I’m writing this from the north-western tip of the island. We drove from Dublin to get here, skirting the Donegal village in which my mother grew up unionist and Google reveals a relation drilling with Carson’s UVF to keep Ulster in the UK.

I’m no unionist but still, as a committed European and a pacifist, I never thought I would find myself writing in favour of renewing the discussion around uniting the island.

But I do so now and I do so here. Not because “Only our rivers run free”. But because free is the only way rivers know how to run.

 

Irish Examiner

Thursday, December 29, 2016

 

Victoria White