South Dublin County Council has zoned the majority of Rathcoole Woodlands as ‘Rural’ under the 2022-2028 County Development Plan.
The woodlands, which are located behind Coolamber and Rathcoole Park were the subject of a planning application by South Dublin County Council which wanted to develop social housing, GAA pitches, a primary school and other amenities on the grounds.
However, local community and residents groups opposed the project, citing the need for an environmental and biodiverse area in the region.
The Four Districts Woodland Habitat Group (FDWHG), with community partners BCM Residents Association, Rathcoole Park Residents Association and Forest Hills Residents Association fought the development since 2016 and welcomed the recent ruling to retain the woodlands.
“While Rural zoning has no conservation objective, it does mean only activities in line with permitted land use under Rural zoning are possible,” the FDWHG said in a statement.
“An area to the eastern edge and a strip to the northern edge continue to be zoned ‘Residential New’.
“If future activities in these Residential New zoned areas were to proceed, they would pose a threat to Rathcoole Woodlands and therefore it remains vulnerable,” the group said.
“However, the Woodlands Group are delighted with the overall re-zoning outcome.
“It has gone beyond the group’s initial expectations at the start of the campaign all those years ago.
“Little did we think that what we thought was a captivating little woodland haven, would turn out to be a habitat of national and unquestionable ecological importance.
“It has so many significant features, heritage hedgerows, tufa like springs, streams, alluvial woodland, bats and birds of conservation importance. It truly is a biodiversity gem.
“This outcome is wonderful for biodiversity, rewilding and climate change.
“We hope the future bodes well for Rathcoole Woodlands under the stewardship of South Dublin County Council.”
County councillors and local TDs have largely been in support of the group’s campaign.
Independent councillor for the area Francis Timmons said he was “delighted” that woodlands would be re-zoned.
“I am delighted to have played a vital role in this. It is still high on my agenda,” he said.
Four Districts Woodland Habitat Group thanked the local community in a statement saying that it could only have only been achieved “by signing or turning up for the petitions, by making submissions to the County Development Plan Public Consultations, writing to councillors, helping with funding, producing professional reports, clean-ups, manning the Banner in the Park, providing raffle items and attending group meetings.
“The group is grateful for the support of Rathcoole Community Council and Rathcoole Community Centre who provided much needed administrative support and free meeting rooms.
“We are especially grateful to local councillors who supported the woodlands, posing motions and questions on our behalf and voting to save the woodlands.”