An ecological survey of the Rathcoole Woodlands area has confirmed the presence of rare habitats listed under EU environmental protective legislation, the Habitats Directive. The survey was commissioned by the Four Districts Woodlands Habitat Group who are campaigning to save the woodlands from a Council plan to develop the area. The Council’s original master plan from 2019 was to build 250 houses, a school, GAA pitches, and a library on the woodlands and adjacent area to the south of Rathcoole Park.
The group believes the survey supports their call for the woodlands to be given full protection as a natural amenity for wildlife and the community. The survey found that the rare EU protected habitat, Alluvial (Wet) Woodlands, covers an area of nearly 13 hectares. It identified a rich mosaic of natural habitats that included two other rare habitats, Lowland hay meadow and Petrifying springs.
In the report Dr Rory Hodd, an independent botanist, says “taken as a whole, this site is of very high ecological and biodiversity value and it is imperative that it is protected and managed correctly into the future, as a key local biodiversity area, of great benefit to both local wildlife and to the local community.”
Since reports of the rare habitats emerged the Council has put their draft plan on hold, but the group are concerned that the Council is still determined to find a way to push through with some part of the Master Plan. They believe that such sensitive ecological areas can’t be chipped away at to try and squeeze in parts of the master plan.
Deirdre Tierney from the group said “It’s important that these lands are given the protection they need. You cannot start removing parts of what is a continuous and whole ecological system as this will detrimentally affect the other parts. The report says that all of the habitats covered by the Council’s plan are essential in retaining the integrity and functioning of the Annex I habitats”.
The Group acknowledges the awareness and support of the wider 4 Districts Community and South Dublin County Councillors for the Woodlands Habitats many of whom have visited the Woodlands. This support was very obvious recently with the very large number of related Habitat preservation submissions to the SDCC Draft Development Plan 2022-2028 consultation. The Habitats need to be protected as required by the EU Habitat Directive legislation and we are confident that this can happen with a combination of Community, Councillor and Council commitment.