Strategy to halt biodiversity loss in north Dublin cannot be achieved due to lack of funding

Council says plan would cost €4 million annually and there were other competing priorities such as housing

A major environmental strategy designed to halt biodiversity loss across north Dublin by the end of the decade cannot be achieved due to lack of funding, it has emerged.

Fingal County Council has this month completed public consultation on its draft Biodiversity Action Plan 2022-2030 which it describes as an “ambitious programme of a hundred actions to reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030″.

The council is developing the plan to meet EU and national commitments to address the biodiversity crisis by stemming habitat loss and protecting species.

However, the council said the plan would cost €4 million annually to implement and it will not be in a position to achieve two-thirds of the programme by the EU 2030 deadline, due to a lack of resources.

“The funding needed to implement all the actions in the biodiversity plan is estimated at €4 million annually and would require about six full-time staff to co-ordinate the actions for the period 2022-2030,” it said.

“Neither the funding or the extra staff resources can be made available by the council due to demands from other competing priorities such as the provision of housing, roads, sports and community facilities.”

As a consequence it said: “the council will not be in a position to halt the loss of biodiversity in Fingal by 2030 as envisaged by the EU.”

The council has decided to focus on 32 measures out of the 100 in the plan, most of which it said are subject to existing commitments and “require significant staff inputs over many years”.

These priority actions will focus on management of special conservation and protection areas at Howth Head and Rogerstown Estuary in Portrane; making open space more biodiversity friendly; the implementation of Tidy Towns biodiversity plans; ecological studies to inform the planning process and the County Development Plan; and updating the Fingal biodiversity website to disseminate the study reports and project information.

Labour councillor John Walsh said many vital projects have not been prioritised.

“It is alarming that over two-thirds of the recommended actions to conserve and expand biodiversity will not be achieved by 2030 and it is a safe assumption that if they are not implemented in the short-term, they may never see the light of day at all,” Mr Walsh said.

Crucial projects not prioritised under the plan include the creation of an ecological corridor of wetlands between the Royal Canal, the Tolka and the Liffey, and a woodland corridor between St Catherine’s Park and Luttrellstown demesne north of Lucan.

“It is incredible that neither the Royal Canal nor the Liffey feature in any of the priority actions. This amounts to a systematic neglect of biodiversity and conservation of essential habitats on two of the most important waterways in Dublin,” Mr Walsh said.

It was a “striking admission that the plan is doomed to fail from the start based on current funding levels”.

The Government should support the council with the necessary staffing and funding to implement the plan in full to prevent the “catastrophic loss of natural habitats”, he said.

The council said funding and resource levels will be further assessed in the context of the submissions received before the adoption of the new Fingal Biodiversity Action Plan.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times