A WEST Cork councillor has called for the SAC (Special Areas of Conservation) to be removed from Baltimore harbour because she said without shelter and a breakwater, it has nothing.
Cllr Karen Coakley (Ind) raised a motion at last week’s meeting of the local authority calling for the introduction of a new Marine Protected Area Bill (MPA), which may revisit the original SACs and remove Baltimore and other harbours like Schull and Glandore from the original SACs so that works could be undertaken such as a breakwater, which presently can’t be done.
An Bord Pleanála refused a planning application by Cork County Council in 2019 to build a breakwater – to provide shelter for boats – but councillors have always said Baltimore needs one.
‘Baltimore needs a breakwater in place, which would be a massive benefit to our fishermen and other maritime industries. Fishing trawlers from Baltimore spend every winter when the weather is bad sheltering in either Union Hall, Kinsale or Castletownbere,’ said Cllr Coakley.
‘Baltimore has a fantastic pier and lots of great facilities but without shelter it has nothing. This is about improving the safety and accessibility of Baltimore Harbour and other coastal areas which will be generally beneficial to the community.’
‘What we want to do is sustain our coastal and fishing communities and I feel we have a duty to the people and their livelihoods and this has to be a priority.’
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) seconded the motion and said a breakwater is the most essential part of a harbour and that there is a degree of danger for islanders coming into the harbour
‘Who are these lunatics that made a SAC out of a working harbour? We can’t even take a bucket of water out of there. We have a situation where boats are getting smashed off the pier and the operating ferries can’t tie up in the harbour as there is no shelter there and have to go up the river to shelter’ said Cllr Carroll.
‘We need clarity on this bill and the SAC has to be removed and removed fast and do we have to wait before lives are lost before something is done? he asked.
His colleague, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said that this goes back to ‘overzealous’ civil servants who drew lines from the edge of every harbour which did not make sense.
‘This was totally unworkable, unpragmatic and not feasible for working piers. Now we have a chance to review it and I’m hoping common sense approach will be taken and I know the Council under the auspices of Kevin Morey have made a strong submission on the review,’ said Cllr Murphy.
Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) said the SAC designations are ‘quite blunt’ and don’t allow for practical measures like a breakwater or dredging of piers and the scope of the policy is ‘too tight and not workable.’
Cllr Caroline Cronin (FG) said the development of piers and harbours is very important and that they have to support the fishermen and ferry people using the harbour.
Her colleague, Cllr John O’Sullivan said that it has been an issue for years in Courtmacsherry when it came to dredging there and described it as a ‘blunt force implementation’ which needs to be looked at.
County Council deputy chief executive James Fogarty said it won’t be a ‘quick fix’ as is a ‘highly complex area’, adding that there is a lot of uncertainty on what the bill is about.