Coillte has confirmed to Agriland that it has withdrawn plans for a forestry project in west Limerick spanning almost 55ac.

The state-owned commercial forestry agency had proposed to develop the plantation, including conifer species such as Sitka Spruce, along with broadleaf species, on lands it had purchased at Cragg, Abbeyfeale.

The afforestation application made to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) also included open spaces in a bid to promote biodiversity.

Local groups, including the Mountcollins and Brosna Anglers’ Association, objected to application highlighting the potential negative impact on the water quality of the River Feale and on the feeding grounds of the hen harrier.

Concerns were also raised about the presence of a children’s burial ground on the site.

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Last October, the department granted permission to Coillte for the afforestation licence; this was appealed by local groups.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Coillte confirmed that the project has now been shelved.

“Coillte routinely applies for licenses to plant and fell trees and to build forest roads across its forest estate.

“Coillte’s afforestation application (CN 88559) was approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, but was then subsequently appealed.

“Coillte has made the decision to withdraw the application to consider our options regarding this project.”

Brendan Danaher, PRO of the Mountcollins and Brosna Anglers’ Association, told Agriland that the decision is “a huge win for a small area like Mountcollins”.

He said that “the village is already surrounded by Sitka Spruce” and this application by Coillte was “a bridge too far” for locals.

He added that all objections to the proposal would have been withdrawn if Coillte had agreed to only plant native woodland on the site.

“There is huge resistance to Sitka Spruce right across the country. Communities are saying give us native woodland where we can have biodiversity. Coillte need to listen to this.”

Coillte, which currently manages 440,000ha of forest and land, has said that it is “fully committed to the sustainable management of its entire forest estate and manages its forests to deliver multiple benefits, for wood, nature, people and climate”.

More than 90,000 hectares of Coillte’s forests and lands are managed primarily for nature conservation and to protect wildlife and habitats, the spokesperson added.