Public meeting in An Tairseach, Wicklow Town 25/04/23 convened by ad hoc committee Save Magheramore (Notes by Margaret Coen)
Attendance – approximately 80
Public strongly identify with beach. Sense of communal belonging. Objections focussing on conservation and biodiversity.
Petition is focus of efforts at the minute – handful of signatures off 5,000
May 5th deadline for submissions to WCC planning dept. Encouraging public to draft own letters to WCC. Media have already picked up on some of these and quoting from them in articles. Fame of beach is national, so a lot of interest.
Brief mention of access to beach – developers have stated public access will be for pedestrians only. Barrier across road and security guard for vehicles. Probably no access during construction. Fear that possibly no access to public if private events being held.
Developers have used County Development Plan (CDP) to good effect and have also addressed previous objections to development on site. Independent Councillor Mary Kavanagh encouraged as many individual comments/objections as possible. General discussion of consultants, expertise in responding to CDP, lack of skills in wording objections.
Margaret Coen introduced self as rep for KIO. Spoke of access being key here, need for legislative change. Mentioned that objections would be assessed on merits of plan, not number of objectors. However, did suggest that if people had a spare €20 then a submission in their own words, telling their story may be very useful as journalists could use to illustrate issue. Stated that Judy Osbourne couldn’t make meeting, but planned to write a letter outlining some issues. Again stressed that development may or may not be something people agree with or like but access to beach is key for all.
Some discussion of access: Access is through “The Avenue”. Leslie Ellis estate maps (pre 1850) show this road. Concern that although access is being promised the character of the lane will be irreparably damaged. The experience of the approach to the beach was mentioned frequently. Karen Dubsky of Coastwatch recently visited and is preparing a submission focussing on The Avenue and its unique ecology. After the event I spoke briefly to a nun from the Missionary Sisters of Saint Columban who was adamant the public had guaranteed access to the beach as she had documents to prove access. I reckon this access was part of the deal when the nuns sold the land originally and gives legal access only to members of the order, but as I have not seen documents this is a supposition. Perhaps this is why developer has had to include access in plans. Historically this laneway has frequently been barred and members of public have either cut locks or knocked gates to maintain access.
Two T.D.’s – Steven Matthews (Greens) and John Brady(S.F.) – were identified as proactive and supportive re the issue. Many local councillors supportive of development.
Spoke to some individuals after the event promoting work of KIO – two people Marisa and Neill took KIO details. Also mentioned monitoring planning issues locally and hopefully will meet them at the next event. Spoke to some local residents, all appalled at potential development close to SAC.
Next steps: see how WCC react to submissions after 5th May. Possible appeal of decision. email@example.com contact details. Left email address. Attend next meeting.
What’s it all about? text by Martin Dyar (copy of petition)
The Oakmount company, led by Paddy McKillen Jnr and Matt Ryan, purchased 21 acres of land above Magheramore Beach in County Wicklow in 2021 for €700,000.
Wicklow County Council, in a widely praised conservation effort, motivated by a change.org petition and a groundswell of national and international concern, bid over €500,000 for the 21 acres in the same auction. The initial asking price was €200,000.
This is the third time in a period of twenty years that a development company has purchased and sought to build on this land. The previous two owners persisted but could not overcome the regulations or the passionate local efforts to maintain an ecological voice and a conservation perspective.
Magheramore’s current healthy condition and its famous biodiversity are the result of longstanding activism. It is an unfortunate irony that the current owners of the 21 acres saw the land as attractive only because it had been so well defended over the years by local residents, users of the beach and a number of dedicated politicians and council figures.
On April 3rd 2023, a subsidiary of Oakmount (Creatively Pacific Ltd) submitted a planning application to Wicklow County Council, seeking permission to install a cinema, an outdoor swimming pool and a gym as part of an upmarket hotel and glamping business. The Irish Times has referred to the plans as ‘a boutique resort.’
The planning application includes a proposal to widen the two hundred year old avenue of oak, beech, holly, and pine trees, a vibrant remnant of the Lesley Ellis Estate which leads from the main road to the beach.
The proposed budget for the resort is 40 million euro, and the projected construction period is 18 months.
The artist’s impression released by Oakmount to the Irish Times presents a concept that would transform the avenue and the fields around Magheramore Beach, effectively urbanising the headland.
Oakmount’s stated intention to protect what they referred to in a planning notice in the Irish Daily Mail on April 4th as ‘the existing ecology’ by planting trees has not been viewed as credible.
The 21 acres comprise an extraordinary wintering ground for curlews, a red listed bird in Ireland. For decades, a visiting flock of typically more than forty curlews have been observed between November and March at Magheramore, as they make their daily movements between Magherabeg Dunes, the special area of conservation (SAC) to the south of Magheramore Beach, the fields purchased by Oakmount, and the long curlew-friendly farm fields that flank the avenue on both sides.
Locals, visitors, and farmers who frequent the area in the winter months have long been exposed to the intense beauty of the curlew’s call. Its unique group behaviour has been observed, and the preciousness of its presence celebrated. This enjoyment and insight have been achieved without encroaching on the birds.
Every year they have returned, at first in their mildly bickering twos and threes, always with one straggler signalling the opposite direction. It takes about two weeks for the flock to fully convene and for their daily musical flying and their ordered foraging to begin.
It has been suggested that flocks of this kind are made of disparate nationalities: French and Scandinavian curlews wintering with Irish birds. Is this a key to their busyness and their lovely arguments? It is also possible that the Magheramore flock is made up mostly of male birds, who need to avoid the trickier food of the coastline because they have shorter beaks than the females, and they fare better with the worms in the fields.
The proposed development will eradicate the curlew’s wintering ground, and establish a bright, noisy and unending human presence that will be an immediate and long term threat to the ecological sensitivity and richness of Magheramore and the Magherabeg SAC.
Magheramore is beautiful. It makes a claim on the heart of every visitor. An intimate cove with stout black cliffs topped with unlikely trees and grasses, a broad ever-changing strand, and a meditative view of the Irish sea which sometimes grants glimpses of Snowdonia. It is a renowned surfing spot, and the Irish surfing community (plugged in as it always is to the reality of the elements) remains central to the spirit of citizen stewardship that is attached to the place, something that is deepened by the tireless work of one local farmer in particular.
Sightings of bats, woodpeckers, jays, hen harriers, kites, and sparrowhawks are very common, together with legions of smaller birds, gulls and waders. The beach and the rocky intertidal areas to the north and south are also sensitive pupping grounds for seals. To see such things, even occasionally, and to be aware of them, creates a new kind of literacy, and it can prompt a powerful instinct of protection. What does biodiversity mean if not a will to resist the destruction of life?
The thousands of people who stand in opposition to the intentions of Oakmount this month understand the allure of the site, its wild views and its wild peace. Like many before them, they wish they could bottle it. And yet, while it’s understandable, it is of course foolish to try. Foolish because there is a great cultural and ecological risk. Only an anti-biodiversity mindset, an approach intent on damaging habitats and communities, would persist with these plans. The natural economic risk to Oakmount themselves, as public opinion towards them and their interests inevitably sours, may or may not prove to be a deterrent.
This petition is an effort to save Magheramore, to win a victory for Irish wildlife, and for a community made up of countless people whose lives have been enhanced by the beauty of this special place, and who wish to fight to preserve it for others, as others preserved it for them.
Let Paddy McKillen Jnr, Matt Ryan, and their partners know that their ideas are unwelcome and unconscionable.
We are calling on Creatively Pacific Ltd to withdraw their plans, and to sell the land at Magheramore to Wicklow County Council, so that the true conservation efforts there can continue.
All who sign are encouraged to read the plans (see below), make up their own minds, and write to Wicklow Planning Office with their views before the tight deadline of May 5th.
Ireland’s biodiversity battles in the years ahead are endless. But this one can make all the difference. Don’t invest in the crisis. Save Magheramore.
To consult the Creatively Pacific Magheramore planning application type the following code into the ‘file search’ field in the below Wicklow County Council Planning Office link: 23/337