SERIOUS concerns have been raised over plans to widen a road through a popular woods in Cork city.
A notice from May 12, 2020 has been put up at Old Court Woods in Rochestown, known locally as Garryduff Woods, announcing Coillte’s plans to widen a section of an existing road to run for 360 metres within the forestry. The organisation is seeking a licence from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine for the forest road works.
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has said a number of constituents have contacted him voicing their concerns over the proposed development.
“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, Old Court Woods has seen a big increase in day to day usage by locals for walking with their children and really has stood out as a public local amenity,” he said. “The people I have met have described it as an oasis in the heart of suburban living. And to be fair to An Coillte they have done a good management job over the decades.
“Many locals have expressed the view to me though that the woods are very small and the amount of timber that can be harvested is low, especially versus the amount of destruction which will be carried out by another felling. Locals have noted that some trees were never replanted some years back leaving a large gap with very little protection for remaining trees. So every time there is a new storm, we lose more trees again.”
Mr McCarthy highlighted that the site is steeped in historical importance.
“Since the boundary extension last year, Cork City has inherited this very beautiful 26-hectare forest amenity managed by An Coilte. It is a site I am rediscovering over the past year since it passed into the city especially from a historical perspective of the Old Court estate and the Battle of Douglas in 1922, was held across the woods,” he said.
He also highlighted that Old Court Woods is an important habitat for the Irish Red Squirrel, which could be impacted if further tree felling occurs.
In December, Coillte announced that all nine of its forests in Dublin would be changing to non-commercial recreational use. Mr McCarthy said he is calling on the organisation to implement the same plans in Cork City.
“I have been vocal many times in the Council Chamber that the City Council needs an effective urban forestry management strategy within the city area. This should also connect to other entities such as An Coillte for cross collaborative work,” he added.
Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon has also voiced his opposition to Coillte’s proposed development.
“The work in question is unnecessary and the small amount of timber that would be harvested does not justify the amount of intrusion and disruption that the road work would cause. I feel very strongly that it should be left as it is.”
In a statement to The Echo, Coillte said they intend to widen the road to facilitate the felling of some trees in the area which they feel pose a threat to the health and safety of the public.
“Old Court forest is primarily managed for biodiversity and 75% of the forest is designated by Coillte for this. The remaining area consists of Sitka Spruce and has a management objective of Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) – this is where we plan to retain a consistent level of tree cover in the area. In 2012 this area was thinned out to allow the canopy to develop and for younger trees to grow up. Unfortunately, the storms over the last number of years have significantly damaged a number of trees in this area and the planned operation is to remove these as they may pose a health and safety concern. Coillte’s proposal was to extend the existing forest road 360m (including turning head) to the south of the forest in order to access the area of Sitka Spruce,” they said.
The felling works and road works would result in a temporary closure of the property to walkers for health and safety purposes if the license is granted to Coillte.
“When the site is replanted it is intended to manage it also under CCF, the additional road would also facilitate walkers in the woods, as we acknowledge the value of this amenity, especially by the locals. This type of management is been applied here because of strong biodiversity values in the rest of this forest. The Sitka Spruce trees to be felled are commercial conifer trees which were planted for wood production in 1970. The timber that will be removing from the forest supports a vibrant forest industry in Ireland, which enable over 12,000 forestry industry jobs, mainly in rural Ireland,” Coillte’s statement continued.
Mr Shannon said he is calling on Coillte to desist and withdraw the application.
“I have asked City Council to oppose this proposal and take the area over on behalf of the local residents. It’s quite rare to have such a woods within a city. We should cherish and protect it,” he said. “Local residents are very angry and have said that they will block the trucks from entering the area if they have to and I will be there supporting them.”
Submissions on the proposal can be emailed to email@example.com or in writing to: Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co Wexford before June 11.