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Hazelwood Forest at threat from developers
Tuesday March 23, 2010 17:14 by Edward Durand
Developers plan to build a housing estate right in the middle of Sligo's deciduous forest. This would endanger the habitats of many rare and protected species of plants and animals and take away the magic of the forest which has provided inspiration for so many, including W.B. Yeats. The proposal was rejected but has been appealed.
Hazelwood forest, one of Sligo’s most precious tourist attractions, is at threat from developers, ForestHaze Developments, who plan to build 158 houses, a marina and 4 apartment blocks up to 5 stories high directly on the river’s edge. The proposal was rejected by the Council but it has been appealed.
The development, planned to concentrate around the old Saehan factory site, would stretch from the water’s edge to within 15 metres of the woodland path many people use to escape into nature. Instead of Sligo’s beautiful forest made famous by W.B. Yeats, they would see concrete. It is a Special Area of Conservation, which is home to many rare species of plants and animals. They planned for the houses to pay for the restoration of historic Hazelwood House but it needs saving from water damage as the roof is leaking.
The Hazelwood Action Group pointed out the plan would destroy a valuable habitat, reduce its recreational value and neglect Hazelwood house itself. The development would bring in up to 500 people requiring extra services and infrastructure. The entire housing project is contrary to the Sligo County Council Development Plan for the area. The Council has put off their decision on the proposal until 16th November.
A lot of rare trees are in the forest (many planted by John Arthur Wynne of Hazelwood House) including the Strawberry tree and the Bird Cherry tree, yet in the application mature native trees are described as ‘scrub’. There are many rare varieties of flowers there including Ivy-Leaf Broomrape and the endangered Three-Nerved Sandwort, whose name (wort) suggests medicinal properties. Rare animals also depend on the forest for their home, some protected by the E.U. Habitats Directive including badgers, pine martens, red squirrels whose population is declining and near-threatened Otters whose population is also falling. Protected birds such as the Barn Owl, Kingfisher and Tern nest in the forest. Six out of the nine Irish species of bats are in Hazelwood, they are protected and roost in deciduous trees. One of only a few alluvial woodlands in Ireland, Hazelwood is an ancient ecosystem. According to Coiltte it is of considerable nature conservation importance, it was even selected as a demonstration site for restoring priority woodlands.sof of - ---
The E.U. Habitats Directive requires member states to protect natural habitats and wild species. It introduces for protected areas the principle that development can only go ahead when they have ascertained no adverse effect on the integrity of the site. The Habitats Directive makes it an offence deliberately to kill, capture, or disturb a European Protected Species, or to damage or destroy the breeding site or resting place of such an animal, even accidentally.
At Lissadell when many trees were felled the ones behind them fell over as they weren’t supported. At Hazelwood they would leave 25 metres of trees with none behind them to protect them from river wind. There are many beech trees; beeches fall over when there are few other trees nearby as they have shallow roots.
The area of the Saehan factory has been identified as a contaminated site from pollution from the factory. The proposal has no houses on this part of the ground but it would be a green area in the middle where the children play. Development would increase the risk of contamination of Lough Gill and the Garavogue river. Hazelwood is the source of water supply for Sligo. The Integrated Pollution Prevention Control license was not transferred to the new owners. The original Environmental Impact Assessment ordered by Saehan said the land should not be built on.
Deciduous forests are needed for oxygen and to balance the ecosystem. They store carbon; if they were removed they would release carbon, which would contribute to the greenhouse effect. The Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t checked the site. Construction would produce air, noise and water pollution. A thin layer of subsoil in the development site puts groundwater at risk. Construction can leak heavy metals into the environment. An Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out but the report seems to lack a considerable degree of detail.
With so many uninhabited houses littered throughout the county do we really need another eyesore at the heart of one of our natural treasures? In Germany they are bulldozing empty houses as there is no demand for them.
Hazelwood is a Green Belt Area and acts as the lungs of Sligo. The extent of the development would take away the magic of the forest, which has provided inspiration for so many people including W.B.Yeats. In the words of Joni Mitchell, they want to ‘pave paradise’, or in the words of Yeats, in a few years shall we look out where Hazelwood used to be and say: ‘Transformed utterly: A terrible beauty is born’. Is Sligo the Land of House Desire or is the forest still the heart of Sligo?
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This all sounds so familiar. We have learned nothing. Property developers just wait for the next chance, they see all nature as being "just scrub". Where are the greens?
European law; the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) mandate the identification and protection of key Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) respectively in all EU Member States.
This is now also Irish national law.
Such areas can only be breached with the prior permission of the Minister of the Environment.
It is up to locals to have these areas designated as such protected areas and not wait until they are under threat, if they have not already been designated.
If the areas have been designated then a court case to challenge Gormley do act is then necessary.
Also an emailing campaign to notify all and every EU institute and Environmental Institution is also necessary to face the destroyers down and force this cancerous government to uphold the laws of Europe, a Europe it pushed down our throats at the Lisbon Referendum.
It also means and needs people to finally stop muttering and get involved,
Getting the Irish people involved is a major problem. we have all sat back and allowed political crooks to run this country for decades, even in the present crises the people are reluctant to rise against political crime.
In spite of the Fianna fail controlled media most people know what these scum have been up to but still there seems to be no response.
There are many pockets of resistance such as SHell to Sea for instance but because of Fianna Fail controlled RTE and press these people have been and still are demonised for standing up for their human rights. At this time there are innocent people being given contrived jail sentences by FiannaFail appointed judges, with Gardai commiting perjury and the public are taking no notice. Reliance on the Green ministers will be fruitless they are now commited Fianna Fail supporters and are quite content to share in their crimes .
For example = When minister Ryan was told that a private security company was recruiting foriegn merceneries from the Balkan region with no research into their backgrounds or histories and using these thugs to asault and commit crimes against irish citizens he chose to do nothing about it. His advice was to contact the licenceing authourity.
I wish you luck with your campaign to save Sligo from the continuing cancer that is the downfall of our country but unless the people stick together and fight the political crooks we will continue to suffer the results.
You are safe.
That was "Celic Tiger" yesterday.
The developer is now probably in "NAMA".
Nobody is building anything now.
It will never be built.
We are delighted that planning permission was refused by An Bord Planeala for this housing development. Now the issue is to plan for the future use for Hazelwood House and its surroundings. It could be an amazing community and tourist facility as well as having a cultural impact on the north west. Your ideas are welcome. Please contact email@example.com
I am glad to hear that the proposed housing development has been turned down. I've often walked in Hazelwood forest, beautiful along the shores of Lough Gill and then along the beginnings of the Garavogue river. Sometimes I've accompanied foreign visitors with children. There is a car park and picnic facility at the beginning of the signposted trail that always needs rehabilitation. Children enjoy feeding the ducks and swans here.
So here are a few immediate suggestions:
1. Repair and replace the eroded wood sculptures that were nicely done around the mid-1980s. Many have become an eyesore. They really fitted into the woodland atmosphere at the beginning, and gave useful work and income to the talented sculptors and their hired helpers.
2. Redo the signposted tree and shrub species, and reprint the informative nature trail leaflets that were first printed by the tourism body in consultation with environmentalists some years ago.
3. New jetty facilities should be constructed along a suitable part of the lakeshore so that a canoe club could be set up by interested Sligo locals. Lockup buildings could be erected alongside the jetty.
4. The possibility of erecting a decorative footbridge across the Garavogue that would connect with a footpath leading to the Tobernalt Road should be considered by Sligo County Council in liason with the tourist interests.
5. The former Wynne family house and the empty factory premises might be converted into some sort of heritage center and hostel facilities for nature and afforestation study groups.