March 18th, 2020
The Doonbeg golf resort owned by US President Donald Trump has been refused permission by An Bord Pleanála to build a controversial rock wall along the coast over environmental concerns.
Trump International Golf Links Ireland Enterprises Limited (TIGL) applied to install two coastal defence structures 1km long in an effort to prevent erosion of the links golf course.
Many environmental groups are critical of the plans to build the 38,000-tonne rock barrier and challenged the original 1999 decision to grant permission for the resort arguing that it would impact the Carrowmore Dune that forms part of a European network of protected nature sites.
Sand dune systems are important for both coastal environments and human populations, and support a broad range of flora and fauna, yet, a large percentage of dunes across Europe are in an unfavourable condition.
In its newly released direction, the Board said that it “is not satisfied beyond reasonable scientific doubt” that the proposed development would not adversely affect the integrity of the dunes that straddle the golf course.
In 2014, the National Parks and Wildlife Service raised concern that the golf course had already “impacted negatively” on the entire sand dune system.
“This is most notable at the centre of the system where the golf course extends right out to the frontline. Given the fact that this system is retreating the golf course should have been located well back from the seaward edge,” the NPWS document states.
The lengthy planner’s report also lists concern with the impact of the long lifespan of the proposed development on landscape and visual quality of the area generally and on the amenity value of White Strand in particular.
The inspector was not satisfied, the report states, that these issues were adequately assessed in environmental submissions made by TIGL. The Board, however, disagreed with this recommended reason for refusal.
Clare County Council had approved the development in late 2017, however, Peter Sweetman, Ireland’s most prolific environmental litigant, secured leave to challenge construction of the rock barrier. He argued that the Council did not carry out a proper environmental impact assessment or appropriate assessment (AA) as required under EU law.
In an affidavit supporting his case, Mr Sweetman said that the location in an environmentally sensitive area at the northern end of Doughmore Bay requires a full AA to be carried out prior to planning being granted.
His challenge was put on hold to allow the planning authority to first consider appeals against Clare County Council’s decision lodged by several individuals and groups including Mr Sweetman, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) and An Taisce.
In its appeal, An Taisce argued that the golf course itself is the main cause of the loss of sand dune habitat, noting that sea defence, stabilisation works, and golf courses expansion works are widely accepted as leading drivers of sand dune loss internationally.
During his visit to Ireland last July, a petition launched by the #NatureTrumpsWalls coalition signed by over 100,000 opposing the coastal defence wall was delivered to the commander-in-chief, passed over to Gardaí in Doonbeg by the director of FIE, Tony Lowes.
“It is important that people realise that whatever about the understandable support for Trump locally, the destruction of the dune system is opposed world-wide,” Mr Lowes said at the time.