THE HSE has defended its clearing of trees at Kelvin Grove, during nesting season and denied that any mature trees have been cut down.
The site, at Athy Road, Carlow town, has been earmarked as a new home for the Holy Angels Day Care Centre and other healthcare services and the HSE is carrying out significant clearance work ahead of an upcoming survey.
The clearance work involving chainsaws and a JCB has been described as “hugely damaging” for biodiversity, with rare red squirrels known to be in the area along with varied wildlife.
It is also claimed that a mature yew tree, along with a host of other trees, have been cut down during the bird nesting season despite a ban on tree cutting.
Ciara Cunningham from Athy Road, Carlow said a unique biodiversity that had developed at Kelvin Grove, including red squirrels, foxes, hedgehogs and pine martins, was being destroyed.
“It’s a huge loss, ecologically speaking. Not just at Kelvin Grove but for the town as the whole,” said Ms Cunningham. “There’s been a big clearance of trees. You can see that clearly.”
The HSE said the works are ‘limited clearance (such as pruning)’ and in order to ‘allow access for a proper land survey and ground investigation of the site’.
The HSE said the works could be carried out under Section 40 of the ***Wildlife Act***, but offered no further explanation.
Ms Cunningham said she was frustrated that tree cutting could be undertaken during the ban, which runs until the first day of September.
“I find it really hard to understand how a statutory agency is getting away with this type of destruction to nature.”
Ms Cunningham supports developing the site for health services, but believes an assessment should have been carried out on biodiversity in the area prior to works being done.
“Whatever they do next, they need to consider how they are going to allow nature and the services to survive together. I think there is a way to do that, but it needs to be done sensitively.”
In a statement, the HSE said the grounds had ‘become very overgrown’ since mental health services vacated the building around 15 years ago. The HSE denied any mature trees had been removed.
The statement continued: ‘In order for the surveys to take place at Kelvin Grove, the clearing of the existing vegetation (scrub and non-mature trees) was required. This is provided for under Section 40 of the ***Wildlife Act***. These planned surveys are non-invasive works. In addition, there are no immediate plans to remove any mature trees at this time and, where possible, it is envisaged that the older trees will be preserved.’
The HSE said it was satisfied that all relevant legislation had been adhered to following discussions with the local authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Services.
The HSE added that the total cost of the development of a new children’s disability therapy services centre in Carlow is projected at €7.1 million.