No development on Blackwater if pearl measures not reversed

The new government will have to try and negotiate a deal with the European Commission to reverse conservation measures for the freshwater pearl mussel, otherwise large swathes of land along the River Blackwater in Co Cork will see little or no new development into the future.
No development on Blackwater if pearl measures not reversed

The new government will have to try and negotiate a deal with the European Commission to reverse conservation measures for the freshwater pearl mussel, otherwise large swathes of land along the River Blackwater in Co Cork will see little or no new development into the future.

The warning came after Cork County Council was forced to refuse permission for a near 100-house project in Mallow because of its proximity to the river.

In 2018 Irish officials persuaded the EU to agree to de-list the main channel of the River Blackwater as a protected area for the mussel.

It was successfully argued at the time that the river didn't have the high water quality required for the survival of the tiny mussel. However, it was agreed that one of its tributaries, the River Allow, would remain a protected area for the endangered mussel.

A High Court case held last December 5, which was taken by an environmentalist, concluded that correct procedures weren't followed in the Irish/EU negotiations.

The Department of the Environment didn't defend the case and as a result the whole river reverted to being a protective area for the tiny creature.

Cllr Gerard Murphy, who lives in the Duhallow region of North Cork, said the ruling means the local authority will now have to reject planning permissions where they could pose even the tiniest risk to river pollution.

In many cases this could simply boil down to fears that sewerage treatment plants in towns and villages alongside the river are beginning to run towards capacity.

“I worked with Heather Humphreys and others to get the main channel of the river de-listed (for protection of the freshwater pearl mussel). There is no other main river in the whole of Europe which is subject to the same protection orders for the mussel. The tributary, the River Allow was retained for the species as it was deemed that it stood a far better chance on it as the water was of much better quality,” Mr Murphy said.

He said as a result of the High Court decision further development could be hampered in towns and villages along the Blackwater Valley from Mallow to Youghal.

“We're in the middle of a major housing crisis and a balance has to be found. We are not annihilating the freshwater pearl mussel. The council did a lot of work to prove it was only likely that it would survive in the River Allow,” Mr Murphy said.

He said he will call on the new government and the Department of Environment to enter into fresh talks with the EU Commission to finally get the protective designation on the River Blackwater scrapped in such a water-tight fashion that it would stand up to any High Court challenge here.

“If this is allowed to continue it will basically sterilise a quarter of the county for further development and the whole County Development Plan (the blueprint for future development in the county) will have to be adjusted as a result,” Mr Murphy said.

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