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Saturday 17 November 2018

Legal Advice: My neighbour is planning to plant a forest around my land. What can I do?

Our solicitor tackles this issues and looks at the options available

Deirdre Flynn

I have 120 acres of land, with little road frontage. In fact most of my land is surrounded by the land belonging to one neighbouring farmer, who actually passed away a year ago and left the farm to his nephew. The land is marginal and some of it was in forestry and now the nephew is planning on planting the entire farm, as he has no interest in farming the land.

I can’t afford to buy the land and I don’t know if any of my children will go farming. But I’m concerned about being enclosed by forestry. My wife and I live in the house and it’s just about 150 yards to the boundary ditch which is where some of the forestry will be. His land meets mine for about three quarters of my farm and I’m worried it might devalue my land and present welfare issues with deer and badgers coming closer to my land.

Dear reader, the Irish forestry and timber industry contributes approximately €2.3 billion to the Irish economy and supports around 12,000 jobs according to Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Hotriculture Andrew Doyle, who spoke at the National Forestry Conference  in May. Forestry is becoming big business and can unfortunately, create situations like yours.

You say your neighbour is planning to plant a forest and I wonder how far along the process he is as that determines what you can do. All proposed afforestation developments must receive prior written approval (called Technical Approval) of the Forest Service. Details of the Forest Service can be found on the Department of Agriculture’s website.

Applications are processed by the Forest Service and there are a number of requirements, for example, a Forestry Inspector must assess the application and make a recommendation, and if there are any environmental issues, then the application is referred to the appropriate authority, be it the Inland Fisheries Ireland or the relevant Local Authority.

Perhaps the most important requirement from your point of view is the requirement of a site notice to be erected at the entrance from the public road to the land to which the application relates. This requirement was introduced by the Forestry Act 2014 and the Forestry Regulations 2017 on May 24 last. 

The sign must be clearly visible and legible by persons using the public road and must not be concealed at any time. It must be erected for a period of 5 weeks and contain details of where further information about the forestry application can be obtained. However, if Technical Approval was obtained, or the application for Technical Approval was submitted, prior to May 24, 2017, this would not have been a requirement at that time. Therefore if your neighbour is at a more advanced stage of the process, such a site notice might not have been erected.

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In addition to the site notice, notice of all applications for approval are published on the Forest Service website and any member of the public can make a submission on a proposed development within 28 days of the notice being published.

With regard to your dwelling house, the setback distance from dwelling houses and associated buildings is 60m. This set-back distance can be reduced to 30 metres with your written consent. If they deem it necessary, the Forest Service could request greater set back distances. The Forest Service, where it considers that a proposed development would have a significant effect on a neighbour by creating a sense of enclosure, may specify that a local consultation take place and they would list proof that same did take place as a pre-approval requirement.

Finally, in relation to deer and badger issues, this could potentially be an issue, particularly if you live in an area of high population of these animals. It is important to note however that a requirement in forestry is the erection of a stock-proof fence around the forestry site and the type of stock-proof fence to be erected will depend on the animals in the area. If badgers are known to be present, then badger gates could be erected.

The only thing you really can do in your situation is watch out for the site notice at the entrance to the land from the public road and keep an eye on the Forest Service, via the Department of Agriculture’s website, and submit your case in writing to them within the time limit allowed for such objections. They will review your case and make a determination and notify you in writing. You also have a further right to appeal this decision within 28 days.  You can also telephone the Forest Service if you have any further queries.

When dealing with any potential issue between neighbours, it is best for everyone if the neighbours can come to an agreement between themselves, however unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Deirdre Flynn is from a farming background and practices as a Solicitor at Deirdre Flynn Solicitors, Cathedral View, Ardfert, Co. Kerry Tel: 066 7115695   Email: info@deirdreflynnsolicitors.ie

The information in this article is intended as a general guide only. While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information provided, Deirdre Flynn does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising. You should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.


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