The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) are demanding major changes around planning requirements for farmers on designated Natura lands.
With farmers on SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and SPA (Special Protected Areas) lands requiring planning permission for actions such as fencing, there is, according to INHFA President Vincent Roddy “an urgent requirement to address what is a blatant discrimination.”
Roddy explained how these farmers are enduring significant costs resulting from these designations that do not apply on non-designated lands. These additional costs were “imposed on farmers over 15 years ago through the requirement for planning permission for fencing and any action that will involve soil disturbance. As part of the planning process farmers will need a Natura Impact Statement which is equivalent to an environmental impact report, with the cost for this borne by the farmer.”
With the NPWS benefiting from significant budgetary increases over the last two years there is, stated the INHFA President an “opportunity to return to the process in place prior to 2008 whereby, the NPWS carried out the habitat assessment and worked with the farmers on any proposed development. If this option is applied then we will eliminate the need for planning permission and the associated costs which are often in excess of €4,000 per applicant” he added.
With 13% of the country designated as SAC or SPA the impact of these restrictions continues to impact heavily on up to 40,000 farmers. The goodwill of these farmers stressed Roddy “is critical in protecting and enhancing these habitats but their views and their livelihoods must not be undermined by excessive bureaucracy and unwarranted costs.”
These designations and in particular the manner in which they were applied is, he continued “viewed in a very negative light by most farmers and it hasn’t been helped by the significant increase in the NPWS budget while ignoring ongoing concerns expressed by farmers.”
In concluding the INHFA President challenged Minister Noonan who has responsibility here “to do the right thing for farmers and the habitats they have delivered and use the increased NPWS budget to reduce the costs and administration applied on farmers.”