Up to 300 trees felled in heritage woodland, court hears

By Ann O'Loughlin

A judge has continued orders restraining further felling of trees on lands in Co Offaly amid allegations up to 300 trees in a heritage woodland of oak, bench, ash, sycamore and hawthorn trees, some up to 300 years old, have been felled.

Gerard Doorly, Claremount House, Banagher, Co Offaly has taken proceedings against Ciara and Padraig Corrigan, purchasers in trust of lands adjoining his home.

They contend his case is without foundation and only trees deemed to be dangerous were felled.

File image.

Mr Doorly disputes their claims dangerous trees were felled in accordance with a notice from Offaly County Council and contends the tree felling began 33 days before that notice issued last April.

In sworn statements, he says the affected lands include a woodland of similar style, age and layout to Dublin's Phoenix Park.

A draft report prepared for him by an arborist had said the damage to the lands includes the felling of some 16,089 square metres of oak, beech, ash, sycamore and hawthorn trees, some of which were between 220-300 years old, he said.

He says 55 oak trees, 66 beech trees, 139 ash trees, 23 hawthorn and 28 sycamore trees have been removed and 3.3 acres of forest floor was also "bulldozed to brown earth", removing 220 years of flora and fauna and destroying a natural habitat for birds and indigenous wildlife.

The amenity loss has been estimated as €140,000 while the value of the felled timber has not been estimated, he says.

He also says the surrounding area of Claremount Demesne has four areas designated as special areas of conservation, special protection areas and national heritage areas.

Mr Doorly, then representing himself, earlier this month obtained interim injunctions from Ms Justice Caroline Costello restraining tree felling.

Those orders were made ex parte, with one side only represented, and the defendants subsequently alleged Mr Doorly misled the court concerning his ownership of the lands on which the trees were felled.

In a sworn statement, Mr Corrigan, of Harold's Cross Road, Dublin, said the lands at issue were formerly owned by Mr Doorly but, except for a small portion, were purchased by the defendants on foot of a court-ordered sale.

He said judgment mortgages had been registered against Mr Doorly's interest in the lands.

As a result of the sale, Mr Doorly has no title on which to ground a claim restraining any trespass or damage by the defendants, he said.

Mr Corrigan said the tree felling was on foot of a notice issued to the defendants by Offaly County Council on April 28th last which required any trees identified by an arborist as dangerous be removed within 28 days.

Mr Doorly, who has since obtained legal representation from McKeever Solicitors, denied he misled the court or tried to do so and says he was unaware at the time of certain matters concerning transfer of the lands.

Had he not initiated the proceedings, the defendants would have continued to fell trees on the entire Claremount demesne and the case is equally aimed at ensuring protection of his own lands, he said.

When the matter returned before the judge on Thursday, she continued the orders restraining tree felling and adjourned various motions to June 21st.

She clarified the orders do not prevent dealing with trees already felled and also said it is open to the defendants', whose counsel said there would be no tree felling, to apply to substitute an undertaking for the orders.

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