Rampant dumping, waste water outflow, litter flowing downstream, and human disturbance are all contributing to the destruction of nature on the Broadmeadow Estuary.
But last week we saw a change in approach from Fingal County Council that may mark a turning point in the fate of some of Fingal’s nature reserves.
A Green Party motion calling on Fingal’s estuaries to be given a higher level of conservation status has been accepted in the new Development Plan.
The new status of Special Amenity Area Order (SAAO) will see the Broadmeadow Estuary getting a more ‘hands on’ management approach from Fingal County Council and see it getting the same status as the Hill of Howth and Bull Island.
Until now the responsiblity for managing the site has been left to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), but the chronic underfunding of that agency has meant that there has been effectively no management of what should be one of Ireland’s most treasured natural habitats.
Due to this neglect, studies have shown that Ireland’s estuaries are ‘degrading’ meaning that each year we are losing some of the wildlife we have sought to protect.
The plan to make Fingal’s estuaries (the Broadmeadow, Rogerstown, and Baldoyle) Special Amenity Areas will now be included as an objective in the next Fingal Development Plan which will define development in the county up until 2029.
The plan was put forward in motions from Green Party Councillors Ian Carey, from Swords, and David Healy, from Howth.
Commenting on the change, Cllr Carey said:
During the last year more people that before have been walking around the estuary and appreciating the wonderful birdlife that is abundant down there. But equally many people from Swords and Malahide are also realising there are serious issues with the area.
Every day litter can be seen on the banks of this nature reserve. People are dropping it around the edges and it is flowing down the river from areas suffering from severe domestic dumping such as the Ward River Valley.
Very many people have taken to picking litter in the area because they simply cannot stand the fact that it is left in this way. I commend these people, they are doing a great public service, but we really need the authorities to take more responsiblity for the management of this reserve and other Special Areas of Conservation.
That’s what this new designation will seek to do. It will give Fingal County Council, and local communties, a more direct role in its management. This can only be a good thing.
However, it will also need to be backed by investment in nature. We need to make sure that our nature reserves have the staff to manage them effectively. Without that a new designation won’t change much.
I would like to see a staff member for each of Fingal’s SAAOs in the coming years. This is the level of investment we see in other countries and well managed reserves have huge knock on benefits for our environment, for tourism and for the well-being of our people.
This is not the solution to the problems at the Broadmeadow Estuary but it is an important first step.