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Public consultation now required on some forestry projects – Department


The change to projects that require appropriate assessment comes into effect immediately

The change to projects that require appropriate assessment comes into effect immediately

The change to projects that require appropriate assessment comes into effect immediately

The Department of Agriculture is making a change to the way in which forestry projects which require Appropriate Assessments under the Habitats Directive are assessed, it has been announced.

Agriculture House says this change, which comes into effect immediately, is necessary in order to give full effect to recent legislative changes as made by SI No. 293 of 2021 of the EU directive. 

In response to the instrument, the Department said it has “initiated a revised public consultation to ensure that there is full public participation in decision-making around projects that may have an effect on European sites”.

The new consultation procedures of forestry licencing applications will now be:

  • A 30-day consultation period on receipt of the licence application. This is already the case and applications continue to be available free to view on the Forestry Licence Viewer on the Department’s website. Any member of the public can make a submission within 30 days of publication of the licence application. A fee of €20 for a submission on any application will apply;
  • A second 30-day consultation period will commence after receipt of a Natura Impact Statement (NIS) or after an Appropriate Assessment Report is produced by the Department, and relevant documentation will be published on the Department’s website. If a NIS is submitted with the initial application only one public consultation period is required. This is the new process, and it is one which makes for extensive public consultation on forestry licence applications. It applies to files which are screened-in for Appropriate Assessment. Any such files in the system that have not yet been decided, and future applications will be covered by this new consultation process with immediate effect;
  • Lists of these Appropriate Assessment cases open for consultation will be published on the forestry pages of the Department’s website at Submissions on these applications will be accepted on payment of the fee of €20 per submission, although no fee shall apply where a person has already made and paid for a submission on the same file; 
  • Any files which are screened-out for Appropriate Assessment will follow the same procedures as before;
  • On publication of a licence decision from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, any member of the public can submit an appeal to the Forestry Appeals Committee. The time period for lodging an appeal will now be within 14 days of decisions issued from July 12, 2021. A fee of €200 for making an appeal applies.

The update comes as forestry owners are considering taking legal action over the continuing delays in the issuing of felling, thinning and planting licences by the Department of Agriculture.

A Dublin-based legal firm said it has been contacted by a number of farmers and other forestry owners regarding the severe and ongoing licensing crisis.

While approximately 1,500 new licences have been issued for 2021, this equates to just 30pc of the Department’s target of 4,500 for the year.

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