Clonsilla residents have expressed frustration and dismay after trees lining Grange Road were cut down this week to clear the area for housing development.
The trees sit on a site which was formally part of St Joseph's hospital and was approved by Fingal County Council for development in August 2018. Firth Developments was granted permission to build 155 residential units on the land along Grange Road including a mix of detached, semi-detached and terraced houses, duplex and apartments.
Harry Carberry, who lives on the Aldemere estate across from the development site, said dozens of local residents objected to the housing plans but were recently told the development group had "special planning permission" and that the decision to allow construction could not be overturned. Initial permission to develop on the site was granted by Fingal County Council in 2009 so residents knew what was coming, he said.
“A lot of people in this estate paid the €20 for an objection at the council but then we were told it was special planning permission that can’t be changed. It was a fait accompli from the start, we only found this out the other day. We thought the objections were going forward but it was all a waste of time.”
Mr Carberry, who has lived in the area for 25 years, believes the trees are between 50-70 years old. “Why can’t they leave the trees and build the estate? This morning I drove out and they’d already started it; they’d already taken down a good few of them. It looks entirely different now.”
The new entrance to the housing estate will also create serious congestion on the Clonsilla road, according to Mr Carberry. “You’re talking about a massive amount of traffic. The trains are already jammed and now you pile all this stuff on top of it.”
Local Fine Gael councillor Kieran Dennison said residents only became aware of the decision to remove the trees earlier this week. He said numerous people raised the issue with him while canvassing at the nearby Clonsilla train station the morning felling began, saying they were surprised Fingal County Council had allowed for the trees' removal.
A statement from Fingal said the trees in question were being removed “in compliance with the relevant planning permission and following discussions with the developer’s arboricultural adviser and the approval by the council of extensive replanting works”.
“Significant trees are being retained and are subject to protection during construction works,” it said.
Barry Kelly, town planning project manager for the development, said the planning permission for Firth Developments included the removal of trees along the eastern boundary of the site. Mr Kelly said Fingal's parks department had encouraged the replacement of these "non-native" trees with a native species. He added that the trees needed to be removed to access low lying ESB cables.
“The plan is to replant with native trees and plants along that area,” he told The Irish Times. “Those trees weren’t maintained over the years, that’s why they were allowed to grow so high.”
The trees were assessed before coming down to ensure the protection of bats and birds, he added. “It’s all permitted, all above board and under all acts and legislation.”
Mr Kelly expects “phase one” of the development to begin within the next month and hopes it will be completed within 24 months. This phase will include the construction of 110 apartments and 113 housing units, he said.