Cut The Grass at St. Paul's for the Brent Geese
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On 11th September 2018, An Bord Pleanala refused permission for a large scale development on 15 acres of playing fields, formerly in the ownership of the Vincentian Fathers of St. Paul’s College, Raheny.
Permission was refused because these lands are an acknowledged habitat for several species of protected birds, including the Brent Geese who winter on the North Bull Island SPA, departing in the Spring for their breeding grounds in Canada. In conservation terms, the Brent Geese are 'Amber listed'. The European population has been evaluated as Vulnerable, as several important populations have declined.
The Brent Geese like to eat the short, sweet grass that grows at St. Paul’s. They return year after year to this exact spot and it is acknowledged by bird experts to be the most important ex-situ feeding site for the Geese who spend the winter building up the fat reserves that will allow them fly back to Canada to breed.
An Bord Pleanala ruled that the landowner at St. Paul's could not demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt (as required by law) that the loss of St. Paul's would not adversely affect the integrity of the North Bull Island SPA. The Board considered that the proposed development would contravene materially a development objective indicated in the Dublin City Development Plan (2016-2022) for the protection of European sites and would therefore be contrary to the proper planning snd sustainable development of the area.
Having failed to secure planning permission, the land owner at St. Paul's has now ceased to cut and maintain the grass. The consequence of this is that when the Geese arrive, their previously preferred feeding ground will be either unavaliable or unsuitable for them. As identified in the Developer’s own Natura Impact Statement (at p. 65 for example)
“As the average sward height recorded at a known inland feeding site increases, the peak count of brent geese recorded at a known inland feeding site decreases (i.e. a preference shown for shorter grass)”
The feeding ground at St. Paul's is effectively being eliminated.
Under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011, the Minister with responsibility for our Parks and Wildlife Services, Josephea Madigan TD, can compel the landowner to maintain this site. We are now calling on the Minister to compel the landowner at St. Paul's to cut and maintain the grass on this acknowledge habitat, which plays a pivotal role in supporting the Bull Island SPA.
This is a matter of great urgency, as the Brent Geese will arrive back in Dublin in October and we are now at the end of September.
Minister Madigan, get the grass cut for the geese before it's too late.
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