Controversial Ballymartle Woods sale ‘paused’
A section of Ballymartle Woods that was put up for sale by Coillte before Christmas has recently gone sale agreed.
However, the forestry agency has this week agreed to pause the sale of the nine hectare tranche of woodland following an intervention by concerned locals. Sale agreed signs went up on 11 January at the popular public amenity.
Coillte put a 9 hectare section of the 40 hectare Ballymartle Woods next to Riverstick near Kinsale for sale back in November after they were approached by a buyer who “potentially” wanted to create a woodland accommodation and recreational offering, according to Coillte.
However locals are very concerned as they have no idea who has purchased the site and they don’t know what plans are in place for the woods.
This week Coillte told the Cork Independent that while the land at Ballymartle is now sale agreed, “in recent days, a local community group has proposed a new walkway and Coillte has committed to giving this new proposal its full consideration, during which time Coillte will pause the process”.
A Coillte spokesperson said: “Coillte’s local forest management team has met with local residents, community groups and public representatives at Ballymartle and as part of this engagement is working through plans to upgrade the existing walking trails and recreational offering at the Ballymartle forest.”
The Riverstick Walkway Committee want to halt the sale of the woods. They met with Coillte representatives on 29 November but say they had little contact after that.
A spokesperson for the group said: “We welcome Coillte’s readiness to pause the sale until community consultation has taken place. However, as an act of good faith we request the sale agreed sign be removed to allow genuine public consultation and exploration of alternatives which benefit the broader public good.”
“As it stands, the sale of the 22 acres to a private entity does not bolster public confidence or serve the public good.”
Fine Gael Senator and local resident Tim Lombard said the mystery surrounding the purchaser was disappointing.
He said the vacuum has created “anguish within the community. They really are very upset.”
“We don’t know who bought it, we don’t know what the purchaser’s plans are,” he said, adding that the land was sold by auction, so it’s not known if the original buyer who proposed to use it as a recreational centre won the bid.
“Coillte need to declare what the proposed use will be. Is it amenity, development, forestry? The lack of information from Coillte has created a void and that is causing a huge amount of frustration in the community,” he said.
Coillte’s consultation policy states it is “committed to ensuring that people are aware of our plans and policies and that we present all of our information in a clear and understandable way”. The Riverstick Walkway Committee deny that this has been the case. “The community is in the dark as to what the future proposed use of this woodland will be after the sale. There has been very limited responsiveness and contact from Coillte during this process.”
“Coillte never clarified or communicated the processes of engagement prior to any proposed land sale as promised. They also failed to share that the land was sale agreed as per the sign erected on 11 January.
“We are still completely unaware as to how this woodland site can be sold with no meaningful community consultation,” the group added.