‘Understanding’ reached between Council and Massereene Golf Club
Thursday, 7 March 2013
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is to be signed between Antrim Borough Council and Massereene Golf Club to help jointly manage grounds which are deemed Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).
It has been more than a year since local environmentalists were outraged by the Golf Club's infringement on to Council lands to chop down dozens of protected 'trees' at the water's edge - all, they claimed, to improve the view for the club's discerning customers.
At the time Massereene secretary Jim Smyth insisted there had been a 'misunderstanding' about where their land ended and the Council's began - despite large wooden stakes clearly delineating the boundary.
They apologised to Council and no legal action was taken, much to the dismay of Antrim's nature lovers who described the woodland decimation as 'potentially devastating' to local wildlife.
However when RSPB member Olive Fleming paid a visit to Rea's Wood in January she was horrified to find more trees had been cleared at a different part of the site which is also an ASSI.
She contacted the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to report the matter and subsequently received confirmation that Massereene GC had been granted consent for the works.
“No feature habitat or species were affected," the letter read. "The wet scrub that has been coppiced will return to vigorous growth."
The response also claimed that the work 'will be of benefit to the ecology of the area as it will provide a more open edged habitat that may attract birds to the lake as flight lines will be more open."
However this explanation has done little to satisfy those who fear the ongoing 'decimation' of Lough Neagh's protected woodland could spell environmental disaster.
The five-year MoU between Council and the Golf Club is not a legally binding document. However at last week's Development and Leisure Committee meeting members agreed that the document would imply that both parties 'will respect that, as boundary neighbours...consultation and joint working arrangements will from time to time be necessary'.
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