'Bring in fees to halt hike in forestry objections' says new report

Minister of State Andrew Doyle
Minister of State Andrew Doyle
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Fees for lodging appeals against forestry planting approvals should be introduced as a matter of urgency, a Government review has recommended.

The review commissioned by the Government was carried out by Scottish forestry expert James Mackinnon, who stated third-party rights of appeal on forestry should be placed on a similar financial basis to general planning.

The current appeals process was introduced through the Forestry Act in May 2017.

The review found that the number of appeals has risen sharply from 35 in 2017 to just under 200 in 2018, and to 250 in the first seven months of 2019.

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These appeals are almost exclusively from third parties, and a decision on a licence can attract multiple appeals.

Leitrim accounts for close to 15pc of forestry appeals, while one individual was responsible for nearly 20pc.

Appeals are taking longer to decide, with two out of 13 being decided in over 53 weeks in 2017; the following year 26 of the 66 appeals decided took over 53 weeks to determine.

Minister of State Andrew Doyle encouraged all stakeholders to take the time to study this report and said his Department would do likewise.

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Backlog

Other recommendations in the report included a call for more political commitment to forestry and more action on reducing the current backlog of applications.

In the longer term, Mackinnon recommended a review of the legislation on forestry and the potential creation of a single planning approval for planting, road construction and felling.

Minister Doyle said implementation of the plan is now a priority.

"I propose to publish a detailed implementation plan early in January next after discussions with stakeholders on the Forestry Programme Implementation group," he said.

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