Coillte has axed controversial plans to build a forest road in a Cork city woodland but does plan to fell trees from a section of the forest.
The forest management agency confirmed it has withdrawn its application for a forest road licence in Old Court Forest, between Douglas and Rochestown, known locally as Garryduff, following a sustained local campaign against the road and felling works.
It briefed city councillors on its plans for the forest last night a week after councillors called for the woodland to be handed over to the local authority for amenity purposes.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, Coillte’s local business area unit manager, Bernard Burke, said engagement with local residents and other interested group on their plans for the woodland during the Covid-19 lockdown was difficult. But he said he has since met with local residents in Garryduff Woods as well as with local elected representatives.
He said Coillte has now agreed a plan with the local residents, which includes the withdrawal of the application for a road. “As well as withdrawing the application, the agreed plan includes harvesting the affected area of the forest, minimising the impact on existing trails and maintaining the biodiversity value of the site,” he said.
But he declined to comment in detail on the plan until councillors were briefed and the details of the agreement were finalised.
In a previous statement, Coillte insisted the felling operation to a portion of the forest was essential from a health and safety perspective.
It said it has applied a "low-impact" approach to management of the 26-hectare forest in such a way to support biodiversity and minimise the impact on recreation users.
"In line with the biodiversity objective of the entire forest, Coillte have been managing a six hectare area, which was planted to produce timber, in a way that, while trees in this area are gradually removed to produce wood, there is always a tree canopy in place," it said.
"In line with this policy, Coillte have removed trees from this part of the forest in a low impact manner in 2006, 2009 and 2012.
"However, more recently, there has been a lot of damage to the trees in this area of the forest.
"Following strong storms, nearly half of this part of the forest has been badly damaged by wind.
"Wind-blown and wind-snapped trees are scattered throughout. This has resulted in a large number of leaning trees which are danger to the public.
“Coillte made the decision to clear up this area and then move back to a low impact approach. This means that the trees need to be removed in one operation and the area will then be immediately replanted."
The road was required to do the felling and Coillte said once completed, the road would have served as an additional walking route in the forest.