Fine of €50,000 imposed for filling wildlife lagoon to create gallops for horses

Judge said defendant continued with work in blatant disregard of notifications to stop

The defendant’s barrister told the judge there was no evidence of any adverse effect on the environment as a result of his client’s actions.

A bloodstock trader who admitted putting 45,000 tonnes of construction rubble into a wildlife lagoon to create practice gallops for his horses has been fined €50,000.

John Collins (43), of Brown Island, Ballintubrid West, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to disposing of waste in a manner likely to cause environmental pollution at his address on June 3rd 2014.

Nicholas Bond, Waste Enforcement Officer with Cork County Council, had told an earlier court sitting that in January 2014 the council received a report that construction waste was being dumped in a special area of conservation.

He said the council had served a notice on Collins requiring all work to cease and later invited him to meet them so they could hear his side of the story in relation to the filling in of the lagoon.


“He came in with a planning consultant on February 10th 2014 and they said they had agreement with the National Parks and Wildlife to do work strengthening banks,” said Mr Bond.

“The National Parks and Wildlife said they had some agreement for minor bank-strengthening works but that these works far exceeded this agreement. The requirement to cease all activities was still in place,” he added.

Mr Bond said the two-acre lagoon, which flooded with water twice a day and was a special protection area for birds and wildlife, was filled in fully except for a stream about three metres in width.

Mr Collins told Mr Bond that about 14,000 cubic metres of dry building material had been put into the lagoon but Mr Bond estimated it was more than twice that – 31,000 cubic metres, equating to 45,000 tonnes of rubble.

He said that to remove it all would require filling 1,500 to 2,000 truck-loads. “We are very anxious that it would stop, that he would stop working on the site… We got no remediation plan (from the defendant),” Mr Bond said.

On Friday Philip O’Doherty, an engineer for the defendant, said he had visited the site and agreed that approximately 45,000 tonnes of building rubble had been used to fill in the lagoon before it was topped with soil to create a gallops for horses.

However he said he didn’t believe that the filling in of the lagoon had led to any flooding elsewhere and he pointed out that historic maps showed the surrounding land had all been reclaimed from the sea in the 1880s.

‘Monumental task’

He said he estimated that the land belonging to Collins – which he acquired in 2001 – amounted to approximately 32 per cent of the reclaimed land in the 1880s while the filling of the lagoon amounted to just 7 per cent of the reclaimed land.

Asked about remediating the damage caused by the infilling of the lagoon, Mr O’Doherty said it would “be a monumental task” which would cost €735,000 given it would require removing 1,500 to 2,000 lorry loads of material.

Mr O’Doherty said he didn’t think the area was of any particular significance in terms of wildlife from his observations. It was now an all weather gallops which was marked out with hedging either side.

Defence barrister, Ray Boland said there was no evidence of any adverse effect on the environment as a result of his client's actions and he asked Judge O Donnabhain not to impose a custodial sentence.

The judge the issue that had particularly concerned him was whether the infilling of the lagoon had led to flooding elsewhere but Mr Bond had been unable to tell him where exactly was being flooded.

Mr O’Doherty was now telling the court there was no flooding resulting from the infilling of the lagoon where a stream remained draining down the land and into the sea so that was something he would have to take account of.

Judge O Donnabhain said the defendant had been engaged in the infilling since 2014 and continued with it in blatant disregard of notifications from Cork County Council to cease and he had failed to fully engage with the council.

He had also failed to respond to a council request to set out a schedule of remediation but he was not going to make an order for remediation as he was not satisfied there was any major environmental damage to the area, he said.

In all the circumstances, particularly the fact that the defendant had blatantly continued with the infilling despite notices to stop, he would fine him €50,000 but would allow him 12 months to pay the money.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times