Coillte’s Bid to Cut Down 200ha for Peatland Restoration Blocked

"Galway County Council Denies Coillte's Request to Fell 343ha of Plantation in Connemara for Peatland Restoration"

Coillte, the state-owned forestry company, has hit a roadblock in its plans to fell 343 hectares of conifer plantation in Connemara for peatland restoration and conversion to native woodland. The proposal, put forward by Coillte Teoranta in February 2023, aimed to restore and rehabilitate around 281 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and heathland. Currently, the site is dominated by lodgepole pine and Sitka spruce forests managed for commercial forestry, with an additional 62 hectares earmarked for conversion to native woodland.

The location of the proposed development lies on the western side of the R344, approximately 5km northwest of Recess, at Derryclare and Cloonnacartan in County Galway. While the site itself does not hold any specific designations, it is in close proximity to the Twelve Bens/Garraun Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC). In a recent decision, Galway County Council cited potential “adverse impacts” on the integrity of the SAC, Connemara Bog Complex SAC, and other European sites as a reason for refusing permission. The council stated that the development would “materially contravene” several policy objectives outlined in the Galway County Development Plan 2022-2028.

The Coillte plantation in question has a history dating back to the 1960s when it was initially planted. Over the years, sections of the site have been periodically harvested. In addition to the proposed restoration work, the plans submitted by Coillte Teoranta last year included measures to address existing invasive species, the blocking of drains, and the installation of deer fencing to safeguard the newly converted native woodland. The company also sought planning permission for the resurfacing of approximately 8.23 kilometers of existing forestry roads and an existing car park to enhance public access.

The total area owned by Coillte at the site amounts to 571 hectares, with access provided by a single vehicle-width rough track and a hardstanding area located south of the gated entrance. The council’s decision to refuse permission highlights the delicate balance between commercial interests and environmental conservation, especially in ecologically sensitive areas like Connemara. Coillte’s efforts to restore peatland and promote native woodland biodiversity have been met with regulatory scrutiny, emphasizing the need for sustainable land management practices in Ireland’s forestry sector.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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