Chapter 13 - Natural Heritage
13 - Natural Heritage
This chapter considers the natural heritage of the Southern Environs which includes the Natural Environment, Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure. Similar to Built Heritage, our Natural Heritage is a key and distinctive asset, which can also be used to promote a positive image of the Environs. The natural heritage of the Southern Environs is a material asset, which should be protected and enhanced.
The natural heritage of the Southern Environs includes a wide range of natural features including for example the River Shannon and Ballinacurra Creek/ Ballynaclough River, the Neighbourhood Park at Mungret, turloughs at Loughmore Common and Monteen and an artificial lake at Bunlicky.
The natural heritage of the Environs are essential to the environmental quality, ecological biodiversity, landscape character, visual amenity and recreation activities of the Environs.
13.2 Natural Heritage
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are legally protected under the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and are selected for the conservation of Annex I habitats and Annex II species.
With respect to the natural environment of the Southern Environs the European designated (EU Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC) Special Areas of Conservation of the Lower River Shannon and Special Protection Area of the River Shannon and River Fergus are located within the plan area. The Ballincurra Creek/ Ballynaclough River which flows through the Southern Environs, is a tributary of the River Shannon.
While not legally designated, proposed Natural Heritage Areas are of significance for wildlife and habitats and are protected under the Wildlife Amendment Act 2000. The proposed Natural Heritage Areas within the Southern Environs include Loughmore Common and the Inner Shannon Estuary South Shore.
Ireland is required under the terms of the EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) to designate Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the protection of endangered species of wild birds. There are no SPAs within the Southern Environs.
13.3 Green infrastructure
Green Infrastructure is the physical environment within and between Limerick City, the Environs and surrounding countryside, comprising a network of multi-functional open spaces, including formal parks, gardens, woodlands, green corridors, waterways and trees etc. Green Infrastructure includes all environmental resources such as air and water quality and provides vital amenity and recreational spaces for communities, thus contributing to the health and quality of life of residents and visitors to the Environs.
In addition to creating passive recreation, green infrastructure can help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Complementing and often replacing conventional built infrastructure, green infrastructure can provide natural solutions to carry, store, absorb and treat water, pollination, soil erosion, flooding, habitats for wildlife, ecological corridors and biodiversity. Green infrastructure also creates more attractive environments, with benefits for health and well-being.
The Shannon Estuary provides a unique amenity to the Southern Environs, which requires management having cognisance to the ecological sensitivities of the area. In addition, the Ballinacurra Creek/ Ballynaclough River provides a nature corridor extending through the Environs. There are also turloughs at Loughmore Common and Monteen and an artificial lake at Bunlicky, which has developed a diversity of wildlife species and habitat.
In addition to ecological benefits, the existing parks and amenity open spaces in the Southern Environs, such as at the Neighbourhood Park at Mungret provide a focal point for active and passive recreation. As outlined under Chapter 9 Community Infrastructure of this LAP, playgrounds are located at Mungret and The Crescent Shopping Centre. An outdoor gym is located at Mungret. There are also a number of walking routes, sports grounds and clubs located
in the Environs. The benefits of this infrastructure are wide ranging and include:
- The creation of a community and a sense of place;
- Encouraging healthy lifestyles and physical activity through the use of walkways and cycle paths;
- Access to nature and the environment;
- The creation of a pleasant environment to attract business and inward investment;
- Climate Change adaptation.
Open spaces and residential developments can be enriched by retaining and enhancing existing natural features, as well as introducing new habitats. The retention and enhancement of existing natural features, such as hedgerows and associated ditches and streams offers the potential to introduce SuDS measures, and to retain wildlife corridors through new developments. The addition of surface attenuation ponds, green roofs and living walls in these developments has the potential to transform an environment into one that offers significant opportunities for wildlife.
The Local Authority aims to ensure access to all areas of public space and institutional lands is maximised, and major spaces are linked via amenable pedestrian routes.
Biodiversity is the diversity of life, the diversity of all the organisms that occur on Earth. A wide diversity of species, habitats, ecosystems and landscapes make up the biodiversity of the Southern Environs. The National Biodiversity Action Plan was published in 2017.
Humans are an integral part of the Biodiversity of Earth and our actions can affect it in both a positive and negative way. Ecology deals with the inter-relations between organisms and the places in which they live. This can refer to human beings’ dealings and interactions with both the habitats and species around them. A habitat is the type of area where an organism or a number of organisms are at home.
In terms of biodiversity, over the past few decades there has been loss and fragmentation in areas that have undergone significant development. However, the Southern Environs also includes and adjoins substantial areas of natural habitat. Connected green spaces provide the greatest benefit to biodiversity in an urban context. In this regard, there is an opportunity to recognise the key conservation value role the Shannon River plays in the County’s biodiversity.
Trees and hedgerows are an important feature for biodiversity and visual amenity. There is potential to conserve and enhance this biodiversity in the Southern Environs through the planning system. Individual planning applications can provide or retain hedgerows, landscaped areas, retention or planting of trees and preservation of natural features etc. The link between the quality of the local environment, of which trees and hedgerows are an important component, and human well-being is one that is increasingly recognised.
Planting new edge or buffer treatments will be encouraged as part of new developments, for example, particularly between contrasting land uses at established industrial areas and surrounding residential developments. These areas will emphasize enhancement of local biodiversity and local surface water management, while enhancing visual amenity.
Objectives to facilitate the management of invasive species shall be implemented in this LAP.
Natural Heritage: Strategic Policy:
To protect, enhance, create and connect natural heritage, green spaces and high quality amenity areas throughout the Southern Environs for biodiversity and recreation.
Objectives: It is the Objective of the Council to:
NH O1: Protect, conserve and enhance natural heritage sites, Natura 2000 designated conservation sites and non-designated habitats, species and areas of national and local importance, including aquatic habitats and species, and promote the sustainable management of ecological networks in co-operation and consultation with the relevant statutory authorities.
NH O2: Ensure development proposals fully comply with the Development Management Standards of the County Development Plan 2010 – 2016 (as extended) and any replacement thereof, and in particular the requirements of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive.
NH O3: Require integration of all elements of existing green infrastructure, including suitable mature trees, hedgerows, field boundaries and natural heritage features into new developments, prevent fragmentation and mitigate potential impacts on the existing biodiversity and green infrastructure network. In the event that mature trees are required to be felled, a comprehensive tree survey carried out by a suitably qualified individual, demonstrating that the subject trees are of no ecological or amenity value shall be submitted in conjunction with planning applications.
NH O4: Protect existing open space and semi-natural open space from inappropriate development and encroachment.
NH O5: Require the planting of native trees, hedgerows and vegetation and the creation of new habitats in all new developments and public realm projects. The Council will avail of tree planting schemes administered by the Forest Service, in ecologically suitable locations, where this is considered desirable.
NH O6: Identify, preserve, conserve and enhance wherever possible a network of connected wildlife habitats, stepping stones, corridors and features including trees of special amenity, conservation or landscape value, which ensure the provision of recreational amenities, biodiversity protection, flood management and adaptation to climate change. In certain situations, it may be possible to create such networks, and where an appropriate management regime is proposed these will be considered favourably.
NH O7: Maintain riverbank vegetation along watercourses and ensure protection of a 20m riparian buffer zone on greenfield sites and maintain free from development. Proposals shall have cognisance to the contents of the Inland Fisheries Ireland document "Planning for Watercourses in Urban Environments".
NH O8: Protect environmental quality and implement site appropriate mitigation measures with respect to air quality, greenhouse gases, climate change, light pollution, noise pollution and waste management.
NH O9: Facilitate the work of agencies redressing the issue of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species.
NH O10: Have cognisance to the All Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015 – 2020 and any subsequent plans when assessing landscaping proposals. Any proposal that actively includes pollinator friendly measures will be considered favourably.
NH O11: Require the provision of alternative roosting or settlement facilities for species, such as bird or bat boxes, swift boxes, artificial holts, or other artificially created habitats in proposed developments, where considered appropriate.
NH O15: Require all developments where there are species of conservation concern, to submit an ecological assessment of the effects of the development on the site and nearby designated sites, suggesting appropriate mitigation measures, and establishing, in particular, the presence or absence of the following species: Otter, badger, bats, lamprey and protected plant species such as the Triangular Club Rush, Opposite Leaved Pond Weed.
NH O16: Seek the creation of new habitats by encouraging wild green areas and new water features such as pools and ponds. Encourage management plans for green areas to use the minimum of pesticides and herbicides. The creation of areas that are not subject to public access in order to promote wildlife use is strongly encouraged.
NH O17: Preserve and protect the River Shannon Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the River Shannon and River Fergus Special Protection Area (SPA) from inappropriate development, to maintain its importance in terms of ecology, and as an amenity area both for the Southern Environs, the City and the Environs as a whole.