Last year South Dublin County Council and Coillte in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland published a plan to turn the grounds of both Massey’s Estate and the Hellfire Club into a major tourist attraction, including a large ‘interpretive centre’ with a restaurant and shop; a sky-bridge that extends over the road between the two wooded areas and a car park for 300 cars; all in a part of South Dublin forest of great natural beauty and with huge local and national heritage value for its flora and fauna, recreational value and archaeological sites.
The woods are one of the largest broad-leaf forests in Europe. David McGunn of HCAG on local radio said of the area: “It is, in the proper, real sense of the word, a wilderness…It has a lot of rare wildlife so close to an urban area” such as red squirrel, woodpeckers and hen harriers. “The entire area is managed in a way that allows wildlife to use wildlife corridors… so foxes and badgers can go backwards and forwards (from urban areas to this wilderness)”. Campaigning groups have drawn attention to the prominence of commercial tourism interests and a lack of consultation with local residents, users of the woods and those with wildlife and heritage concerns.
PBP Election Candidate Dr Peadar O’Grady said:
“PBP want to see the sustainable development of trails and transport links so that more people can enjoy a natural amenity while protecting this fragile environment from the overdevelopment that can come with commercial exploitation. If we allow commercial development here it may well open up other wooded areas of the South Dublin Mountains, such as Ticknock, to commercial development or building projects, which would be a tragedy. We can learn a lot from other campaigns like the Save Our Seafront campaign and how they used People Power to stop privatisation and improve the quality of their environment.”
Following an Environmental Impact Study an application for planning will go directly to An Bord Pleanála in April, bypassing local SDCC elected councillors, and campaigners will have to lodge appeals at that stage. Dublin Rathdown PBP are having another public meeting on March 25th with Richard Boyd Barrett TD to discuss how to progress the campaign for sustainable non-commercial development of South Dublin Forests and for proper consultation with non-commercial interest groups.