Dáil Éireann - Volume 628 - 22 November, 2006

Written Answers. - Natural Heritage Areas.

Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position on motorcyclists with specially adapted vehicles and persons on quads who persist in riding these machines to the various hill summits in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains; the laws in place to protect these sites from such activity; his plans to protect these sites from vandalism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39412/06]

  Mr. Roche: The use of quads and other off-road vehicles has become an increasing problem in the Wicklow Uplands and the Wicklow Mountains National Park, and I share the concern about the inappropriate impacts of these vehicles.

In so far as the National Park is concerned, the unauthorised use of off-road vehicles, including quad bikes, is prohibited. Every effort is made by staff of my Department to monitor areas of the National Park where use of off-road vehicles might be suspected and to deter such unauthor[444] ized use. Conservation Rangers also respond to calls from the public in this regard.

Sites designated as Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), whether located within or outside Wicklow Mountains National Park, enjoy special protection in law. Where development is proposed to be carried out within these areas, regard must be had by local authorities in considering the relevant planning application to the need to protect the habitats or species involved. Where activity is proposed to be undertaken which does not require planning permission, the consent of my Department must normally be sought: this will not be granted where significant adverse impact on the SAC or SPA would result. These latter provisions have recently been strengthened and extended with a view inter alia to exercising more effective control or use of quads or other vehicles in protected areas.

I have asked my Department to examine ways in which existing legislative and regulatory provisions can be more effectively used and better applied in relation to this problem: we are already actively finalising a joint strategy with Coillte and Wicklow County Council.

All recorded monuments, including those located in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, are protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004. My Department responds to reports from the public of any alleged damage or potential for damage to such monuments. For example, my Department’s archaeologists confirmed last year on foot of such a report that there was no evidence of specific damage to the passage tomb at Seefin from quad bikers. The need for any additional operational measures to ensure the ongoing protection and conservation of this national monument is kept under review by my Department in consultation with the Office of Public Works.