New system will deal with felling licence backlog - Creed

Minister Michael Creed
Minister Michael Creed

Ciaran Moran and Declan O'Brien

The Department of Agriculture has launched a new system to deal with a significant backlog of clear-felling and planting licences for the forestry sector.

The backlog stems from a number of successful appeals of forestry licences won by challenging the Department's procedures.

These cases have required the Department to change the way it assesses licence applications.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said a "major triage operation" is ongoing to categorise the large number of files for consideration by the in-house ecology team.

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"I believe the robust and workable system now being put in place will result in an improved licensing system," he said.

However, responding to a parliamentary question on the issue he said forestry licences continue to be issued, albeit at a slower rate than would be expected.

"It has been a good year overall for felling licences and to the end of November, my Department had issued just over 4,000 tree felling licences, which is still higher than any previous year and is 10pc higher than last year," he said.

"This week, for instance, we will issue around 100 felling licences."

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Despite this, the IFA is demanding immediate action by Government to fast-track the issuing of clear-felling and planting licences.

The farm body has also called for forestry roads to be exempted from the planning process.

Vincent Nally of IFA warned of an emerging crisis in the forestry sector.

"This crisis is costing farmers hugely, they are unable to harvest their timber and many are being forced into a non-management situation," he said.

"Farmers needs licences, the sector needs licences, it cannot function without licences."

The Association of Irish Forestry Consultants (AIFC) said a growing backlog of applications was threatening to bring the system to a standstill.

In correspondence with its members, the AIFC claimed that consultants were going to run out of work for contactors because applications for felling licences were being seriously delayed.

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