Smaller farms likely to face new rules on boundary planning
Farmers could be forced to seek planning permission and pay for costly environmental impact assessments before being allowed to remove a hedge on their farm, under new plans from the Department of the Environment.
Until now, farms under 100ha in size have been exempt from planning permission for restructuring or removal of field boundaries.
However, the Department of the Environment is proposing a new threshold exemption that would mean that any farm above 25ha in size would have to apply for planning permission to remove a boundary.
Given that the average farm size in Ireland is 36ha, the changes would bring thousands of farms inside the planning permission net. The proposed rules would also make planning permission necessary if more than 2km of hedge was being removed or the hedge removal had "significant adverse effects on the environment".
The Department is also proposing to make environmental impact assessment (EIA) compulsory where the farm exceeds 50ha in size, if more than 4km of hedge is being removed or the boundary removal is deemed to have significant adverse environmental effects.
EIA reports can cost several thousand euro and were previously only required when a farm exceeded 100ha in size.
The proposed changes would also have implications for using uncultivated land or semi-natural areas for intensive agriculture, as well as irrigation and land drainage projects.