In July, the Government approved the drafting of an amendment to the Agriculture Appeals Act, 2001 to align the forestry licencing and appeals processes with similar planning processes. This action is a commitment in the Programme for Government. Comments were invited on this draft Bill by the end of August and before its presentation to the Oireachtas for their consideration after the summer recess.
Irish law currently requires the Department of Agriculture to license all forestry activity, including tree felling, planting, and road building for log transport. It also gives a broad right of appeal against the issuing of these licences, that allows virtually anyone to challenge such a decision.
The Department’s Forestry Appeals Committee cannot keep up with the number of challenges, creating a two-year backlog that has stalled the production of enough timber to build up to 50,000 new homes.
Hardware Association Ireland has warned that the situation threatens timber supplies and potentially 12,500 jobs amid growing frustration at the Department for failing to deal speedily with the appeals.
The Department has pledged to hire more staff to do this work. Also, a proposed amendment to the Forestry Act, could introduce a charge for each appeal. HAI has made a submission to this consultation on behalf of our trade sector and has encouraged members nationally to do the same. HAI has also written to the Minister for Agriculture, Food & The Marine, Opposition Spokespeople, and is meeting and liaising with other trade sector groupings and individual members directly within the timber category. Members of HAI were also asked to contact their local TDs and Senators to impress upon them the seriousness of the current situation.