State to buy almost 2,000 hectares in Dublin Mountains

Ring criticises delay in purchase that will make national park ‘one of Europe’s biggest’

The State has agreed to purchase 1,983 hectares (4,900 acres) in the Dublin Mountains from the National Asset Management Agency (Nama). File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The State has agreed to purchase 1,983 hectares (4,900 acres) in the Dublin Mountains from the National Asset Management Agency (Nama). File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring has criticised the State’s tardiness in purchasing almost 2,000 hectares of park lands in the Dublin Mountains in the area known as the Featherbeds.

Mr Ring was speaking after announcing agreement with the State to purchase the 1,983 hectares (4,900 acres) from the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Most of the parkland lies within a special area of conservation and a special protection area, surrounded by the Wicklow Mountains National Park, Ireland’s largest national park.

The new State lands will be added to the national park and the Minister said it would be “one of the biggest national parks in Europe”.

Mr Ring declined however to reveal the agreed price for the lands as contract finalisation is under way. Some speculation last week had put the price at under €1 million.

Mr Ring who is Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs said “this is not the first time the Government has had the chance of buying this land”, and could have done so in the past 10-12 years.

He said that between 2008 and 2011 State funding of his department had been cut by 70 per cent. The issue had only landed on his desk two weeks ago but was now being resolved, he said.

Total funding for the National Parks and Wildlife Service for 2016 was €2.5 million, the valuation Nama had put on the park lands.

National interest

In the Dáil a fortnight ago Mr Ring had criticised the valuation Nama but on the land, but the Minister on Wednesday paid tribute to the State agency and said Nama had put the national interest first.

Welcoming the sale agreement he said it was the “culmination of a constructive engagement between the department and the National Asset Management Agency and addresses a long-standing strategy to align key environmental assets”.

He said the Featherbeds were an important area for conservation and for public amenity and said their acquisition by the State “is a sign of our commitment to preserve our natural heritage for future generations”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan welcomed the acquisition as “really great news” and a “once in a lifetime opportunity to protect a large area of the Dublin Mountains for the hundreds of thousands of walkers and nature lovers who value the uplands as one of the great things about our capital city, and we’re glad that sense has prevailed”.

The Green Party raised the issue in the Dáil and launched a petition signed by 21,000 people to retain the lands in State ownership.

Nama had acquired the site after a developer involved in Dundrum shopping centre got into difficulties. The most recent negotiations began in February 2014.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Andrew Doyle also welcomed the purchase. Mr Doyle, a Fine Gael TD for Wicklow said he had been in discussions with Mr Ring on the issue and had “continuously pointed out the need for the State to purchase these lands”.

Mr Ring said the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which has responsibility for the State’s six national parks and 80 nature reserves, would work with Dublin Mountains Partnership to manage the acquisition.

The partnership includes Coillte and three of Dublin’s four local authorities, the department and the Dublin Mountain Initiative, an umbrella group representing recreational users of the Dublin Mountains.