INHFA calls for re-negotiation of land designations following ECJ ruling

A recent finding by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) relating to the implementation of our Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) has brought into question the legal basis of these sites. In their ruling the ECJ pointed to the Irish State not implementing specific conservation objectives for these sites within the six-year timeframe that is required.

Speaking on this National President Vincent Roddy detailed how this ruling “now brings into question the legal basis for these designations and demands that the entire process be re-negotiated.”

When these designations were first introduced they were he stated “done so on the basis that these areas had specific wild fauna and flora that was deemed to be in good condition and worth protecting.” In addition to the designation there was, he continued “a requirement to put in place a conservation plan for these sites within six years of the designation to ensure the protection of the habitat and its features at the time of the designation.”In failing to do this the State has stressed Roddy “undermined the designations and the contribution made by farmers and landowners in delivering high quality habitats. Beyond this, they have also failed to recognise the conservation work carried out by farmers through necessary agricultural activities in developing and protecting these sites.

This failure is best illustrated through the 38 Activities Requiring Consent, where farmers are now obliged (and often refused) through a slow and onerous process to get permission for vital actions necessary in the protection of these habitats. This whole process has of course contributed to additional costs on farmers that threatens the viability of their farms”

“The States inability to trust those that delivered these habitats and their default position of preservation over conservation has now been exposed, stated the INHFA Leader.

As we look ahead we must, he stressed, “ensure that landowners and farmers are no longer side-lined and recognise the vital role they have in protecting nature, while also ensuring their property rights and income potential is protected.”

In concluding the INHFA President detailed the need to “look again at all designations in a process that focuses on negotiation not consultation with farmers and their representatives. In such a process proper consideration will, he maintains “need to be given to the impact of all designations on income and property rights, as catered for under Article 2(3) of the Habitats Directives that details how these directives shall take account of social, economic and cultural requirements.”