Coast Diary – June 18th: Newtown Woods Resources

This post is a resource for those wanting to send a submission to Waterford Council in regards to Newtown Woods. It’s far from comprehensive but feel free to use this information and copy and paste what you need Submissions in writing or by email, to reach Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford  iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022.

Old Wall, Summer 2022.

Back in 2007 a lot of locals here campaigned against a big development on our coast which is a Special Protected Area (SPA). At the centre of the campaign was the chough, a bird of the crow family that lives on cliffs. The campaign group was ignored by the County Council, who supported the development, with one councillor saying on local radio that ‘Choughs could go and live in trees’ for all she cared. To which I say ‘may a rat take up residence in your underpants’. 15 years on, in response to the current proposals at Newtown Woods, the Council Heritage Officer devotes a paragraph of her memo (See References and Links below) to choughs who, as noted, don’t live in trees. Perhaps in 15 years they will survey the trees to measure impacts on dolphins…

It’s true that the rest of that memo deals with use of modified lighting with regards to wildlife, particularly birds and bats, and the conservation of trees, but time and again it only commits to protect and preserve ‘where possible.’ And in their own proposal vis a vis lighting they add the rider that ‘PUBLIC LIGHTING TO BE RENEWED AND EXTENDED WHERE REQUIRED’ (Appendix 1). All of which leaves a lot of room for manoeuvre.

It should also be noted that in the memo, the developers have been asked to keep construction within the boundary fence and not store flammable chemicals outside it but as is obvious to all they have continuously stored construction materials outside the fence and under the trees, which is skating a bit close to the line if you ask me. That’s how much such agreements and conditions are valued.

Anyway the the main points of my submission are below.

  • Street lighting limited to the entrance of the housing development and not continue down the roads by and through the woods.
  • The containing wall is vital and needs to stay. 
  • Scrap the one way system.

Of specific concern in regarding the council’s proposals:

  • The proposed street lighting (even modified lighting) – disturbance to bird and bat life.
  • The possible planned removal of the containing wall – disturbance to flora and fauna, removal of food source, removal of insect habitat. Added light pollutions from passing cars.
  • The increase in traffic through the wood by the one-way system and by additional proposed apartments.
  • That these developments and proposals will pave the way for further developments including further lighting and impacts.
  • Lack of a proper survey of the woods itself, it’s flora and fauna and how they integrate.

I will also request a survey to benchmark the woods. In the best case, the woods will be ring fenced and managed for future generations. In the worst…well I have to try. As far as I am concerned, we cannot afford to lose the Newtown Woods habitat or have it changed even one iota. Below, some more information and links, including the Heritage Officers memo.

Next week I’ll be back to giving out about other stuff…

Appendix 1: Irish Woodlands and Newtown Woods in brief.

Ireland is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 9% wooded area and most of that being made up of commercial forests. Older woodlands are incredibly important and in fact are in an emergency situation. Newtown Woods contains Native trees such as oak and ash – which is under threat from ash dieback, a disease which came to Ireland in 2012 and is expected to wipe out most of our ash trees. Also present are sycamore and beech, considered non-natives but in fact long term resident on the island of Ireland.

Appendix 2: Heritage

Newtown Cove & Woods, Ordnance Survey Map, 1840.

This area is also part of our heritage, the woods and wall – which is also a habitat in itself as well as a provider of food for birds and a protection from traffic noise and light – being part of Lord Doneraile’s estates. Lord Doneraile was a title owned by the St. Ledger family who had estates in Cork and Waterford from the mid 1600s. Newtown House was built around 1750. By the early 1800s, Newtown was being managed by the Power family, still the dominant name in the area. Above is a map from 1840 which includes Newtown Woods. It was supposedly planted for commercial use – most likely for building carts, tools and out-buildings on the estate, and there is likely evidence of woods management from that period. It has not changed much since then however it has decreased to the northern edge where the developments are creeping in. But with the extra traffic this habitat will surely not last as long again.

Appendix 3: Benefits for Humans

Connection to nature is important for humans and this is acknowledged by initiatives like An Coillte’s Woodlands for Health program. Without going into it too deeply, Here is a recent evaluation of the program. Another evaluation (2014) noted that participants mood and sleep was noticeable improved by the program (Nairn, R,. 2020, p.58).

Appendix 4: Impacts

However, Human interaction with the woods demands knowledge and for that we need it surveys. For instance the recent building of dirt bike ramps in Newtown Woods and using branches cut from trees is a serious threat to this fragile environment and the council and others need to work harder to make sure this environment is properly appreciated.

Two of three dirt bike ramps, Newtown Woods.

Traffic

Traffic has already increased hugely on the road through the woods. Visitors to Newtown Cove have swelled through lockdown and will increase more with the added developments. Every single visitor to Newtown Cove now leaves by car through the woods. This must have impact despite any surveys which were conducted, apparently without local consultation. As a local I would calculate the one way system could have increased traffic by the power of ten.

Knock on Effects on Wildlife

The lack of surveys of the specific area of Newtown in relation to developments means that we cannot tell what knock on effects there are because of those developments. In the past there was a badger sett at the north east corner of the woods. This has now been abandoned most likely due to the building of the Newtown Glen estate. It is also likely that the recent influx of rabbits to Westtown is a result of the new Newtown Cliff development. What impact will they have on the Westtown habitat – for hares for instance? And the increased traffic – what species will we lose? The owls, the nesting sparrowhawk? Some birds will stay but lighting has in other areas caused disruption to sleep and therefore breeding patterns. There’s some more species mentioned in previous posts.

***

Waterford City and County Council Memo including conservation recommendations for Newtown Woods

To: Anne Doyle, Executive Planner
From:Bernadette Guest, Heritage Officer
Re:21/836 Residential development of 27 houses comprising 24 no. detached two storey houses and 3 no. single storey terraced houses and ancillary site works. This development is an extension of the already complete Newtown Glen housing development in Tramore.
Date:16th October 2021

It is noted the proposed development is located adjacent to the northern section of Newtown Woods.

Under Section 6.2.3  New Residential Development in  the Tramore Local Area Plan 2014-2020 ; The Council will aim to protect and preserve mature and semi-mature trees where possible and will require new developments to be so designed as to integrate existing trees into any new schemes. Sufficient distance should be maintained between existing mature trees and new buildings

Policy GI 1  states; The Council will preserve and enhance the amenity and biodiversity value of Tramore by preserving as far as possible trees, woodlands and hedgerows and will consider Tree Preservation Orders in order to protect trees of significance in the Plan area.

To ensure compliance with these policies the following conditions are recommended;

The development shall establish a 5m buffer zone from the boundary of the existing treeline of Newtown Woods.

All trees within the development site shall be protected by way of a 2m high wire mesh fence and be continuous outside the canopy and root protection area. The fenced and root protection area shall be a construction exclusion zone with no storage of fuels or chemicals in this area. The RPA fence shall remain in place for the duration of construction works.

Public lighting in the area adjacent to the woodland shall be designed to avoid unnecessary light spill in the  interests of  wildlife such as birdlife and foraging bats. Lighting scheme shall comprise low-pressure sodium lights  on low height  columns  and shall minimise light spills  by use of shields or louvers. Lights shall be restricted in this area to ensure dark periods for foraging and commuting birds and bats.

The site is approximately 120m north  of the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA designated for Chough, Herring Gull, Peregrine and Cormorant. The proposed development will not incur loss of habitat  from within the ecological footprint of the SPA and does not have direct or hydrological connectivity to the  SPA being separated by Newtown Woods. The proposed development will not incur loss of grassland habitat within or close to the SPA essential for feeding Chough  or lead to  reduction in water quality. It is considered the proposed development does not have potential  for significant effects on the conservation objectives  of the qualifying interests of the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA and can be screened out for further assessment.

References & Links

Ancestry Network, (2022), Tenants of Lord Doneraile in Cork & Waterford. Available at https://www.ancestornetwork.ie/tenants-of-lord-doneraile-ck-wd-1765/ [accessed 17/06/2022]

Nairn, R., (2020), Wild Woods, Dublin: Gill Books.

Waterford Council, (2022), Active Travel Scheme, Newtown, Tramore, Available at https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/06/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme-3/amp/ [accessed 17/06/2022]

Planning Drawings https://waterfordcouncil.ie/media/projects/public-consultations/2022/newtown-hill/Newtown%20Hill%20-%20Part%208%20Planning%20Drawings.pdf

***Please note other plans and drawings are available on the Waterford Council Active Travel Proposal. Link in Reference section.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for your post highlighting this proposal Claire, and for synopsising the issues.
    I share all your concerns, and would also be concerned that removal of the stone wall would expose the woodland to possible erosion from road run-off during heavy rainfall ( an increasingly frequent occuren ce) It likely is an attenuator of floodwater.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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