THE owner of Castle Freke has responded to the news that Coillte have pulled out of the proposed plan to sell him lands near the historic castle.
Earlier this week, Stephen Evans Freke had outlined his ambitious plans for the lands, which he had planned to replant in a bid to preserve them for future generations to enjoy.
However, he had been opposed by local campaigners who feared he may limit access to the woods which had become a popular amentiy for walkers.
But yesterday Coillte said they were pulling out of the deal, after a well-attended public meeting last week voiced strong opposition to the plan.
Speaking to The Southern Star today, Mr Evans Freke said that while he believed in democracy, he feared that the ‘power of social media’ was prone to abuse and to propagating ‘falsehoods’.
‘Coillte informed me on a call yesterday that they had decided not to proceed with the proposed sale of land based on the breadth and depth of feeling in the community against it,’ he said.
‘I knew well the deep connection the people of Ireland feel with the land, but I underestimated the extent to which this proposed solution to a self-evident problem would strike a very sensitive nerve for people,’ he added.
‘I believe in democracy, and I understand the decision by Coillte in the circumstances. I also acknowledge the power of social media that is roiling democratic systems around the world, sometimes for good but equally prone to abuse when it is used to propagate falsehoods,’ Mr Evans Freke continued.
He also said that, since the proposed solution to the ‘clear-cutting destruction’ of the lands involved him paying ‘an exorbitant price to buy land of no economic value to myself, and then spend more to clean it up and replant it’ the outcome was scarcely a loss to him.
‘Now the challenge is to find an alternative solution that ensures good stewardship of this and the rest of the Castlefreke woods going forward, clean up of the ravaged areas and an end to further clear-cut harvesting, since to do nothing and leave this important beauty spot hopelessly scarred for a generation would be a great loss for all of us,’ he told the Star.
And he said he remained ready to ‘work with all interested parties’ to help secure an outcome that preserves the beauty of the area for the entire community and future generations.
In a statement issued yesterday, Dominic Carroll of the Castlefreke Our Woods Our Walks campaign, said the decision would ‘bring relief and joy to the many thousands of people who use Coillte's wonderful amenity in this part of West Cork’.
He said great credit was due to all campaign supporters, near and far, for their efforts to protect the woods from being sold.
And he said Monday’s meeting in Rosscarbery will still go ahead, ‘to provide an opportunity to chart a future course for Castlefreke Woods to ensure it remains a public amenity and is developed to its full potential’.