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Wednesday 16 January 2019

Peat extraction firms say court judgement would bring the industry to "a standstill"

A peat bog and a wind farm (Julien Behal/PA)
A peat bog and a wind farm (Julien Behal/PA)

Tim Healy

Two peat extraction firms have been refused permission to appeal a significant finding their activities are no longer exempt development.   

The companies had claimed the finding would effectively bring the industry to "a standstill" with implications for some 11,000 jobs while planning applications are put in train.

In a ruling on Friday, the High Court's Mr Justice Charles Meenan refused leave to appeal his February judgment upholding An Bord Pleanala's decision the activities are not, after September 2012,  exempt development.

The Board decision was made in April 2013 after Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) queried the development status of the operations. 

Separate proceedings were then brought by the affected companies, Bulrush Horticulture Ltd, and by Westland Horticulture Ltd, Westmeath Peat Ltd and Cavan Peat Ltd.  

Mr Justice Meenan dismissed both challenges in a judgment which means, from September 2012, all commercial peat harvesting in Ireland is unauthorised unless it has planning permission.

He found a "sound legal basis" for the Board's decision the firms required an Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment for the works. 

Both companies sought permission to appeal but their applications were refused on Friday by the judge. 

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He accepted the outcome of the case has "important and far reaching" implications for the peat harvesting industry.

While also accepting his interpretation of the relevant law involves a point of law of exceptional public importance, he said there can be points of law of exceptional public importance which are not so uncertain as to require a ruling from the Court of Appeal (COA). 

In this matter, he considered the relevant law was not uncertain.

Bulrush, of Magherafelt, Co Derry, has since 2003 operated a facility at Camagh Bog near Castlepollard, Westmeath, 80 hectares of which is subject to peat extraction. Extraction of peat from the lands began about 1983.

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