Tighter regulations a threat to forestry plantings target
Tighter environmental regulations will have a serious impact on forestry plantings this year.
Padraig Egan of SWS Forestry said the new measures that were introduced late last year will seriously reduce the area that can be planted in some holdings.
Mr Egan said the requirement for a 5m setback from drains, watercourses and ditches had the potential to restrict planting on up to 30pc of holdings in some cases.
"Five metres may not sound much but if the setback is on both sides of the drain, it can quickly become a big percentage of an area," he pointed out.
Although Mr Egan remained "optimistic" regarding farmer interest in planting, he said the environmental guidelines would have a negative impact on the total area committed to forestry.
"I think these restrictions are going to be a factor because people will not be allowed to maximise the productive capacity of their holdings," he said.
While the national target for forestry plantings for 2017 is 6,640ha, Mr Egan claimed the sector would be doing very well to get 6,500ha.
John O'Reilly of Green Belt said the target was achievable, although he accepted that there were concerns around the environmental guidelines.