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Environmental activist challenges bid to chop down trees in Cavan

Sweetman is challenging a decision made to issue Coillte a ‘felling licence’ in respect of coniferous Sitka Spruce trees on 2.7 hectares of land.

Image: Shutterstock/Maximillian cabinet

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST PETER Sweetman has brought a High Court challenge against a decision allowing trees to be cut down on lands in Co Cavan.

Sweetman is challenging a decision made in July to issue Coillte a ‘felling licence’ in respect of coniferous Sitka Spruce trees on 2.7 hectares of land on the Bellamont Forest Estate close to the town of Cootehill in Co Cavan.

The decision was made by the Forestry Appeal Committee, which he claims failed to carry out a proper or adequate screening of the site for the purposes of complying with the EU Habitats directive before it decided to grant the licence.

He claims that the site of the felling is near several designated Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Areas of Protection (SAPs), and the impact on local species of birds and otters.

He is concerned about the potential damage to the local environment if the felling proceeds without the licence conditions being strictly complied with.

He is specifically concerned with the accumulation of debris and the run-off material contaminating local waterways

The High Court heard that Collite sought the licence from the Department of Agriculture, which was granted in 2019.

That decision was appealed by Sweetman to the relevant appeal body, the Forestry Appeals Committee, which last July authorised the tree felling.

He claims that in arriving at its decision to grant the licence the committee failed to consider other tree felling licences that have been granted for the overall area, nor he alleges did it have any regard to future felling operations in the locality.

He also claims that certain matters, including considering what type of chemicals will be used as part of the felling process and their effect on local ecosystems, were not properly considered by the committee.

In High Court judicial review proceedings against the Committee Sweetman seeks various orders and declarations including an order quashing the decision to issue the Felling Licence.

He also seeks a declaration that the Committee failed to conduct a proper screening of the site, in accordance with the requirement of EU Directives, including the Habitats Directive.

Coillte Teoranta is a notice party to the action.

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The matter came before Justice Charles Meenan this week who directed that Sweetman’s lawyers bring the application for permission to challenge the decision in the presence of lawyers for the other parties.

The case was adjourned to date later this month.

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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