Fermanagh Area Plan 2007
Environment: Natural Environment
The Fermanagh landscapes are rich and diverse comprising a variety of fresh water lakes, rivers, agricultural lowlands and upland areas. The Lough Erne system is part of one of the most extensive inland waterways in Europe and flows from south-east to north-west across the length of the District.
The Department's publication "Fermanagh, Its Special Landscapes" (1991) is a study of the Fermanagh countryside and its heritage.
In recognition of the quality of the Fermanagh landscapes, Environment and Heritage Service, has proposed the designation of two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); the Erne Lakeland and Fermanagh Caveland.The purpose of designation of the AONBs is to protect and conserve the scenic qualities of the areas and promote their enjoyment. Designation would also give national recognition to the outstanding natural assets of the areas and could assist in tourism promotion and rural regeneration.
The special landscapes of Fermanagh provide a variety of wildlife habitats including woodlands, hedgerows, meadows, peatland, forests and wetlands. These support a rich diversity of plant, bird and animal life. A number of sites have been declared Areas of Special Scientific Interest on the basis of their national or international importance for nature conservation. In addition there are National Nature Reserves, Forest Nature Reserves and sites owned or managed by nature conservation organisations such as the Ulster Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The Erne Basin is of particular importance for its wetland habitats many of which provide breeding sites for wading birds e.g. lapwing, curlew, redshank and snipe. Upper Lough Erne contains many sites of interest for waterfowl.
Nature conservation has assumed greater importance in the latter part of the 20th Century coinciding with an increasing realisation of the vulnerability of the natural environment and the consequences of environmental damage. A series of Government policy initiatives has been introduced and legislation enacted to implement the obligations of European Community directives and international agreements on nature conservation; namely the EC Wild Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) and the EC Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna and Flora (92/43/EEC) and the Ramsar Convention on Conservation of Internationally Important Wetlands. These oblige each member state to take special measures to protect and manage habitats and species and to manage wetlands on the basis of a wise use policy.
The overall purpose of the Birds Directive is to provide for the protection, management and control of all wild bird species occurring naturally in the European territory of the Member States. In Annex 1 of the Directive there is a list of particularly sensitive species for which special measures are to be taken to conserve their habitats. In particular, Member States are required to classify the most suitable areas as Special Protection Areas (SPA).
The main aim of the Habitats Directive is to promote the maintenance of biodiversity through the protection and management of natural habitats and species of Community interest. This will be achieved through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) .
The areas of blanket bog at Cuilcagh Mountain, Slieve Beagh and Pettigoe Plateau, together with Upper Lough Erne, the limestone grasslands at Monawilkin and Largalinny and a number of small lakes near Magheraveely are currently included in the United Kingdom list of proposed Special Areas of Conservation submitted to the European Commission under the terms of the Habitats Directive. Pettigoe Plateau has been classified as a Special Protection Area and listed as a Ramsar site by virtue of its bird populations and wetland habitats; Upper Lough Erne is proposed for similar designation for the same reasons.
The Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations (NI) 1995 will implement the assessment and decision making requirements of the Habitats Directive, and includes provisions for dealing with planning applications affecting European Sites.
Under the terms of the Directives any development likely to adversely affect the integrity of a European Site (SPA or SAC) can only be carried out for imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature.
The Department will also explain the policy and practical implications of the Regulations in a Planning Policy Statement (PPS 2) "Planning and Nature Conservation" to be published March 1997.
In addition to those sites which are of national or international importance, Fermanagh has an exceptional range of natural and semi-natural habitats which the Department is keen to protect from adverse impact. Of particular note are the freshwater loughs and wetland areas, the blanket and lowland raised bogs, the species rich grasslands, areas of broad-leaved woodland and river corridors.
The quality of water in Fermanagh's loughs and rivers is relatively good. However, Lower Lough Erne is considered to be eutrophic (moderately enriched with nutrients which can sustain the growth of algae and other plants) and the Department intends to take measures to improve water quality with respect to nutrient inputs.
Lough Erne supports a wide range of fish species and is of international importance for angling, with the Upper Lough of particular importance for coarse angling and the Lower Lough popular with game anglers.
The Department has, in association with the Department of the Environment (Republic of Ireland) and the INTERREG Initiative of the European Community, commissioned the preparation of a Water Quality Management Plan for the catchment of Lough Erne. The Plan will provide a framework for the management of water quality in the Erne catchment. Actions which are currently being taken to improve water quality include the implementation of nutrient control at sewage treatment works and the introduction of regulations for the control of discharge from vessels to the waters of Lough Erne.
The Lough Erne Management Liaison Committee, consisting of representatives of the District Council, Government Departments and Agencies, is a co-ordinating body concerned with the management of the Lough and its environs for the benefit of all local people and visitors.
- To protect and where possible enhance the landscape quality of Fermanagh.
- To protect and where possible enhance wildlife and habitats of nature conservation importance.
- To maintain and improve the water quality of the Erne.
- To protect vulnerable and pressurised landscapes from excessive development.
The Department's Strategic and Regional Planning Policies for the Natural Environment are currently contained in "A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland" published in September 1993 and in the Planning Policy Statement 2 "Planning and Nature Conservation", to be published March 1997.