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Coillte plans cull of up to 80 wild mountain goats

Dara Bradley

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Coillte is planning to kill up to 80 wild mountain goats in Connemara.

The national forestry agency says it plans to cull a “huge herd” of feral goats that are “running riot” at Coillte-owned Drumsnav Forest, between Cornamona and Mám.

The company had planned to begin a seasonal culling last Saturday, December 3, but it did not go ahead following concerns expressed by some local residents.

Coillte said it is now liaising with the local community in relation to its plans.

Sile Murphy, of Q4 PR, a Dublin based media relations company hired by Coillte, said the planned cull was no different to a rabbit cull. Unlike killing deer, a licence to cull goats was not necessary, she said.

“There are hundreds of them all over the country, in Kerry and in Cork. They are wild feral goats and they are causing a huge problem in Connemara. They are running riot . . . twelve farmers in the area have said they want the herd culled,” she said.

Ms Murphy explained that a large area of woodland at Drumsnav has been felled but the goats were preventing replanting. They were also impacting on privately owned lands.

“Farmers and Coillte can’t grow anything . . . in the felled area, the goats are eating all the saplings. You can’t grow anything,” she said.

In a statement, Coillte said: “The presence of feral goats exerts a detrimental influence on a locality, particularly on agriculture, forestry and conservation habitats.  In Drumsnav Forest, between Cornamona and Mám the current feral goat population is now estimated to be between 60 and 80 and this large herd is causing substantial damage to both public and private lands in the area.”

In October of this year, it erected a stock fence around its land at Drumsnav, but this was having a “limited effectiveness”, and was “effectively transferring the problem of the herd to neighbouring lands and landowners”.

Coillte added: “While feral goats are not protected by any wildlife legislation Coillte understand that feral goat populations should be managed in a manner that is safe, legal, humane and ethically responsible and have engaged with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), their own forestry team and affected landowners in order to find a suitable solution.

Coillte proposed a seasonal cull of the majority of the herd in Drumsnav and this was communicated to the local community and the Gardaí in the region. Coillte is continuing to engage with the community, affected landowners and local groups on this proposal and other proposals for the management of the herd.”

Ms Murphy said Coillte was open to suggestions on how best to deal with the issue, including alternatives to culling. “Something has to be done,” she insisted.

She said there was no obligation to inform the public of plans for a cull but residents in the area had been advised in advance.

A letter circulated in November, and titled ‘Culling of Goats’, Coillte informed residents of its plans.

“Coillte will shortly commence the replanting of the local Drumsnav wood and to prepare for these works, plan to remove the wild goat population from the site.

“The presence of these goats will be detrimental to establishment of the newly planted trees, which we are obliged to establish by the Dept of Agriculture. If you own the goats, please remove as we intend to start culling on December 3rd, 2016,” the letter read.

Ms Murphy says it was “never the intention to kill all the goats on Saturday”, however she confirmed it was the intention to begin culling on that date.

She said she did not know what would happen to the culled animals but assured they would be killed humanely.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley

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An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.

The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.

It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.

In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.

“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.

A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.

A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.

It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.

Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.

The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham

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The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.

However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.

Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.

The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.

Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.

The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.

Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.

Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.

The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).

The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.

It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.

As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.

It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.

In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley

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Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.

Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.

The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.

It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.

Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.

Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.

“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”

The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.

He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.

“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.

“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.

“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.

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