“In granting permission for a proposed golf course and tourism development within the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA (Special Protection Area) on Ireland’s southern coastline, Waterford County Council has massively disregarded the principles of sustainable development and failed to fulfil its obligations under existing legislation and international environmental agreements” states the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) in a statement about the Islandikane golf development at Garrarus, Co Waterford.
GEO continues, “Ireland, like the rest of the European Union, has committed to halting the loss of biological diversity by 2010 as a fundamental step towards future environmental and economic security. With barely six months to go, a significant effort is required if Ireland is to reach this target. For a site as sensitive as the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA, designated for the protection of rare birds such as the chough and peregrine falcon, the failure of Waterford County Council to insist upon sustainable golf development runs directly contrary to Ireland’s EU commitments and its responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.”
The decision of Waterford County Council has been appealed to the Irish Planning Appeals Board (An Bord Pleanála) by a number of local residents, environmental organisations, and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The decision of An Bord Pleanála is due to be finalised by 8th September 2009.
“It is to be hoped that the board will acknowledge Ireland’s commitments to international environmental targets, uphold the principles of sustainable development, and send a message that golf developments need not, and should not, conflict with the aims of nature conservation,” says a spokesman for GEO. “As the 2010 biodiversity target approaches, now is not the time to be pursuing unsustainable economic growth at the expense of protected areas.
“Despite the fact that the developer has proposed to follow the principles of the Golf Environment Europe ECO Management Programme (now superseded by the Golf Environment Organisation certification scheme) and apply for accreditation, the development design and assessment process has run contrary to those principles, by selecting a protected area for development, failing to act on the advice of government scientists and leading environmental experts, and by assuming that any negative impact can be overcome by future mitigation measures.”
Mr. Jonathan Smith, CEO of the Golf Environment Organisation, outlines its position on certification: “The earliest that a golf facility can register with GEO Certification is at the growing in-stage, which in the case of Islandikane could be years away. Any facility which has legal challenges or planning appeals hanging over it will not be able to register, and a facility which fails to follow best practice or does not respect the integrity of a site of European nature conservation importance is also unlikely to be eligible. In any event, a proposal to apply for certification in no way constitutes an appropriate mitigating measure for environmental damage, and should not be given material consideration in the planning process.
“While GEO appreciates the intrinsic value of dramatic cliff top golf, and the great potential that creative golf planning and design can have in many contexts, we believe that in the modern day, harming fragile assemblages of rare species and habitats is not acceptable. The technology and expertise exists to create great golf developments that avoid environmental conflict and deliver true environmental and economic gain, but that requires adaptation of the development model to specific site conditions, and respect for fundamental social and environmental values.”
Golf Environment Organisation www.golfenvironment.org