Cork City Council urgently needs a tree policy similar to that of Dublin City Council to prevent the removal of trees across the city, the Green Party has said.
Oliver Moran, Green Party representative in Cork, made the call after what he described as the destruction of the urban forest at the back of the former St Patrick’s Hospital and Hospice, by Griffith College Cork.
College chiefs have said a decision was taken to remove the canopy of trees last summer following consultation with local residents due to concerns around littering and antisocial behaviour.
They said the area had become overgrown and that the college has plans to sow grass and use it as a green area for students and staff.
However, Mr Moran said the area is a designated landscape preservation zone and the trees should not have been removed.
Mr Moran also accused Griffith College of misrepresenting nearby residents.
He said residents met with college management after the clearance took place to make their protests known.
“They have written again to the college recently demanding the landscape be restored,” he added. “Resowing the site with grass simply isn’t good enough.
“It was zoned by Cork City Council for landscape preservation specifically because of its tree canopy and ecology.
“Sowing it now as a lawn is a signal that Griffith College has no intention of restoring the ecology or tree cover.”
Mr Moran added that designating an area as a Landscape Preservation Zone appears to be “a very weak zoning”.
“It means development isn’t allowed on the zoned area — or very limited at least but it doesn’t prevent the feeling of trees,” he said.
“To do that a site needs to be protected as Landscape Conservation, or a Special Amenity Area or have a Tree Protection Order.
“People are despairing at the loss of trees in the city.
“What Cork City Council needs to do is to follow up on the weak designations it has with ones that actually carry weight.
“It desperately needs a Trees Policy, like Dublin City Council has.
“Trees are vitally important to our city.
“They reduce pollution and help tackle climate change by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen.
“They reduce flooding by slowing down and soaking up storm water and they’re good for us.
“The reaction from people who’ve heard about this incident should make it clear to Griffith College that this isn’t acceptable, regardless of the law.”