Friday 21 March 2008

Developers to restore habitat after clearance

PROPERTY developers who own riverside lands in Dundalk, where the habitat of kingfisher birds and other wildlife was completely destroyed by a contractor clearing the site, have pledged to restore the habitat as much as possible.

“We made a mistake and are here to fix it. We are as much to blame as everybody else,” said Kieran Slevin of IBEX Construction at the site on the Ramparts Road in Dundalk yesterday.

IBEX Construction Ltd. was granted permission to build 117 apartments in three blocks on the 1.9 acre site. Contractors, hired to clear the site, flattened and laid bare the mature habitat.

However, none of the 52 planning conditions have been breached and the failure of the local development plan to include any reference to protecting wildlife habitats meant such a condition could not have been made.

The destruction of the mature habitat was spotted by local Green town councillor Mark Deary who contacted the developers. They immediately agreed to rectify the damage.

Mr Deary said the development, “meant this [type of event] was an accident waiting to happen”.

The local development plan is now under review and Mr Deary said the new one will have to contain “an explicit policy to protect wildlife corridors in the town and will have to name the Ramparts, Blackwater and Castletown rivers”.

The site has about 120 metres of frontage over the Ramparts River onto the road and was previously a thriving natural habitat for wildlife including the kingfishers, lark, and grey wagtail.

The branches of some of the trees, including willow and horse chestnut had created shade over the river, making it ideal for the birds.

“Ireland is a stronghold for kingfishers but they are hard to protect and this habitat supported them and other species,” said local conservationist, Breffni Martin.

Chairman of the local branch of Birdwatch Ireland Mr Martin believes kingfishers previously bred in the habitat in 2003.

This week Mr Martin and Mr Deary met with the developers, their architects and a landscaping expert at the site. Speaking afterwards, the developers said they regretted what happened and would do all they could to restore it.

They hope to “re-wild” the site and are also considering the possibility of a miniature woodland with a riverside habitat.

Dundalk town council said it “is aware of concerns regarding impacts from the site clearance works carried out”.

Irish Examiner

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