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Parks Commission blocks fence plan at Southlands

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Plans to fence off a part of Southlands National Park have been rejected (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

A proposal to fence off a section of the Southlands National Park has been rejected after the National Parks Commission sided with environmental groups.

The Department of Public Lands and Buildings had submitted a planning application to install a six-foot-tall green chain-link fence and gate at Southlands Park to enclose the property’s quarry garden.

However, the Development Applications Board turned down the application last week after the NPC criticised the lack of a wider plan for the site.

In a letter, the NPC said: “Unless there was a determined use for the quarry where this fence is being installed, then it does not make sense to install it.

“Development in the park should be based on a full vision and not potentials. Without a management plan in place, no development should occur.”

A technical officer said in a subsequent DAB report that the objection from the NPC meant the proposal could not be approved.

The report said: “In light of this, the Development Applications Board cannot be satisfied that the proposal is in conformity with this policy and has no option but to refuse the application.”

A topographical map of Southlands Park with the location of proposed fencing (Image from planning documents)

Environmental groups had objected to the proposal because of the lack of a management plan for the site and the inability of the developers to consult the NPC, which had been disbanded when the application was made.

The commission has subsequently been re-established.

In response to objectors, the Department of Public Lands and Buildings said the fencing was intended to “protect and preserve” the quarry garden as an amenity space for potential beneficial uses.

“The fencing is therefore a follow on work proposed as part of a carefully planned clean-up, maintenance and protection exercise, which is being undertaken across the park, for some specific areas within the park,” the department said.

“These carefully planned arrangements are intended to bring improvements and eventually to realise some outcomes of benefits from such amenity spaces of interest, which would otherwise be left covered in wildly overgrown invasive trees or vegetation.

“The proposal is also part of preparations for amenity areas, which are meant to be included in the wider Southlands Park Management Plan, which is currently being drafted for the entire park.”

The letter added that the area could potentially be used for a dog park, a playground or “any other purpose it can be designated for in the plan for use and enjoyment of the park”.

The DAB report said that while the proposed fence would not be visible from the public road, it would be “detrimental to the natural or visual qualities of the area”.

However, the objection from the NPC meant the plan could not be approved by the DAB.

The Government formally obtained the 37-acre Southlands estate in 2012 as part of a land swap involving 80 acres of brownfield land at Morgan’s Point.

The move was celebrated by environmentalists, who had campaigned since 2007 to protect the site from a hotel development.

The property was formally declared a national park in 2017, but while several clean-ups have take place, concerns have been raised about the site falling into disrepair.

In 2022, the Government conducted an online survey that asked the public how the property could be improved.

The survey options included restrooms, a café, a restaurant, a visitor centre, gift shop, beach concession, picnic areas and whether it should be pet-friendly.

The survey also asked participants to rate possible uses in order of importance, including research and educational centres, weddings and events.

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Published July 10, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated July 10, 2024 at 7:56 am)

Parks Commission blocks fence plan at Southlands

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