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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Mikalaureque via Shutterstock
Doughmore beach

Surfers concerned about damage Donald Trump’s Clare wall could do to beach

People have expressed their concern about the damage that could be done to dunes and rare wildlife on the beach.

SURFING GROUPS HAVE written to Clare County Council to raise their concerns about plans to erect a flood defence wall around the US President Donald Trump’s golf course in Co Clare.

Its submissions were among a few dozen sent to the council by locals, environmental groups, and the Green Party.

Most of the submissions expressed concern about the damage the proposed works would do to Doughmore beach’s dunes and wildlife. Others expressed concern over the aesthetics of the flood defence plans.

Trump’s company TIGL Enterprises Ireland Ltd first made the application for a flood defence plan to protect against the erosion of the golf course last year. It withdrew the application in December to tweak its application and downscale the plans.

In a previous statement, the Doonbeg golf resort said that the new “coastal protection” application will stretch from around 600m to the south and 250m north of the beach.

Metal sheet piles would be inserted into the ground on the golf course. Limestone boulders would be placed at the base of the sheet piles.

“Once completed, the works would not be visible to view, being covered by sand and the cobble bank which backs the beach. Access to the beach for all users as exists today will be maintained.”

Dunes systems are by their nature in a state of flux: over decades beaches can appear and disappear on coastal areas, which is a normal part of the ecosystem, according to experts has spoken to previously.

WP_20161127_11_26_24_Pro_LI Dave Flynn Doughmore beach. Dave Flynn

Among the submissions were two lengthy statements by the West Coast Surf Club (WCSC), which said that its members had enjoying the perfect surf conditions and the natural beach of Doughmore “for generations”.

It said that it engaged with both Trump’s Irish company TIGL, and Clare County Council on the proposed plans for Doughmore beach.

It said that it had sought “significant engagement not only with our members but also the international surf community’s specialists and other independent coastal zone management specialists”.

During the most recent round of reviews, it became quickly obvious that what was proposed will result in the acceleration of erosion in parts of the beach not protected following the introduction of the proposed fixed elements.

It added that the proposals only “protect sections of the current layout of the golf club” and would ”hasten the damage to the beach side at the very least and lead to the eventual demise of the dune system in its entirety”.

In summary, the ventral concern is that this current proposal will be merely the first of a series of proposals to introduce similar installations along the length of the beach. The introduction of these, effectively fixed sections of coast line will lead to accelerated erosion at the edges where the dune remains unprotected. The natural action of the dune system will be disturbed.

The national surfing representative group Irish Surfing also found fault with the plans.

It said it wished “…to register our objection to the proposed works on the grounds of the expected long-term damage to the surf environment due to resulting changes to beach profile which will follow the introduction of these coastal protection works”.

 Traditionally, Irish Surfing generally provides support but leaves direct responses to issues of local access and environmental threats to local surf clubs, however in this case, the threat to this important surfing environment requires a public response.

One local compared the plans to the failed projects of the boom era, and said that they were ”completely inappropriate in terms of visual impact”.

Sadly, there are many recent Irish examples where the poor planning decisions of the Celtic Tiger years have caused inestimable difficulties for homeowners now living on floodplains in developments which should have been built.

“In a similar way, the proposed interference in the natural landscape of Doughmore will lead to areas at either end of the proposed barrier bearing the brunt of winter storms.”

Their submission also pointed out the ecological importance of the area, namechecking a rare prehistoric snail as one example.

This area is a unique ecological treasure that has been named a Special Area of Conservation by the EU Special Habitats Directive. The 31 acres of stunning sand dunes are legally protected and provide an essential habitat for vertigo angustior, the rare prehistoric snail.

“They also provide the sand that is necessary to maintain both the beach itself and the offshore sandbars that make Doughmore such a superb surfing spot. As well as vertigo angustior, the dunes and the beach are home to a wide variety of wildlife which would be severely threatened by the proposed development.”

Environmental groups

The National Land Trust said that the works proposed “are not scientifically credible, are not the appropriate treatment of a dynamic dune system, have not been demonstrated to be compatible with the maintenance of the ecology of the dune system and are visually injurious to the Atlantic dune and beach landscape”.

The Green Party said that its initial “concerns about the project have not been satisfied” by the further information supplied by Trump’s company.

“While the scale of the coastal defence obstruction has been reduced and separated into portions, our central contention remains, that interfering with the beach in the manner proposed will change the dynamic process within which dunes are constantly being formed in the normal interaction between sand and flora systems.”

Traditional coastal golf links do not require tees on mobile sand dunes; they are located on the stable terrain behind. We do not believe that a unique ancient ecosystem, and surrounding views, should be damaged for the sake of an inevitably fleeting use of the area as a golf course.

An Taisce’s advocacy officer Ian Lumley compared the plans to the Trump International Golf Links Menie golf course in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

“The golf course overlaps the Foveran Links Site of Special Scientific Interest, which was designated as such because it was one of the prime examples of mobile sand dune systems in the UK.

“Before the golf course was constructed the dunes naturally shifted northward by as much as 11 metres per year over an area of 15 hectares. However, when TIGL stabilised the dunes to protect the golf course, their natural movement was severely impeded.

“Dr Jim Hansom, a geomorphologist at Glasgow University, said that this loss of natural dynamism will likely result in the dunes losing their designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

“Similarly, Scottish Natural Heritage, which is now assessing the status of the Foveran Links Site of Special Scientific Interest, stated that the golf course had caused habitat loss and damage to the dune system.”

When asked for reaction to the new submissions to its planning application, Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Doonbeg declined to comment.

A decision on the planning application is due later this month.

Read: Trump plan for a wall in Clare slammed by international experts

Read: Donald Trump is really dividing opinion in Ireland with his plans for that ‘other’ wall

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