Thursday, 18 August 2016

Action needed to protect Bray Head-Brady

Speaking after the most recent gorse fire to hit Bray Head, Sinn Fein TD for Wicklow/East Carlow John Brady has said that all parties responsible for the maintenance of the popular landmark need to come together and devise a plan to tackle the problem:

“As a Bray resident myself I am only too aware of how popular Bray Head is, not only with the local community but with tourists from all over the Country and further afield. Recently however, Bray Head has been extensively damaged by fires burning much of the land causing a dangerous inconvenience to the local area. There have been three serious fires now in as many weeks, the fires have caused traffic chaos due to diversions, serious damage has been caused to the land itself with wildlife and natural vegetation affected, huge costs have been incurred due to the necessary attendance of the fire services, not to mention the obvious dangers involved to fire and other emergency service personnel. The most recent fire motivated the Gardaí to close the famous cliff walk, while smoke billowing from the gorse fire spread across much of South Dublin; poor visibility meant that traffic had to be diverted with local radio stations asking drivers to avoid the area completely.”

Teachta Brady went on to say that since 2007 Bray Head has special status under the law so it is important to ensure that those charged with managing the area are liaising with the land owners and other invested parties including the local community:

“In 2007 a ‘Special Amenity Area Order’ (SAAO) was instituted for Bray Head. This order effectively placed the area in a protected category. According to the SAAO the order is ‘designed to protect areas that are of particularly high amenity value, which are sensitive to intense development pressure and which cannot be adequately protected by existing planning controls’. Moreover, in the case of Bray head the order specifically states that an administrative structure would be established to oversee the aspirations of the order, specifically referring to the need to burn off gorse in a controlled manner; Policy 1.3.4 of the order states - ‘The Council, in accordance with the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000 and the National Parks and Wildlife Service shall promote a Heathland Management Programme consisting of controlled burning of the site on a ten year rotation, in small patches, during the legal burning season.”

Teachta Brady continued:

“Apart from the beauty of the area, Bray Head is also of ecological importance and is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The principal habitat across much of the upper area is heath, which is listed under the EU Habitats Directive. Policy 1.3.4 of the SAAO also states the following – ‘The planning authorities shall jointly set up a management committee to manage the Special Amenity Area Order area, which shall be representative of the local authorities concerned, local community interests, including landowners and relevant environmental and conservation Interests at the discretion of the local authorities. The committee shall be responsible for producing a five-year management plan for the area for monitoring environmental quality in the area and for monitoring implementation of the plan’.”

Teachta Brady concluded by saying that he will be organising meetings with all relevant parties over the coming weeks to discuss ways in which a collective effort might help to reduce the incidents of rogue fires in the future:

“I have written to Wicklow County Council requesting information about the structures in place around the management of Bray Head in the context of the Special Amenity Area Order. I look forward to meeting with all concerned parties including the council, land owners and local conservation and environmental groups with a view to discussing ways of ensuring the safety of constituents and protecting the natural environment of Bray Head.”

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