I welcome the fact that within 7 days of the passage of the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 by Dáil Éireann, it has now come into force: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/press/pressreleases/2020/october/title,151085,en.html
However, it is now imperative that the staff & resources are put into the forest licencing system so that applicants and those who have raised concerns get decisions in a timely manner.
It is completely unacceptable that it is taking 8-900 days for a licence application to be decided upon, and this new legislation has no impact on this key aspect of the process. I am, however, disappointed that the Government rejected my proposal and that of my colleagues that this should be set at a maximum of 90 days. We also believe that an appeal should be dealt with within 60 days, but again this was rejected by Government.
Included in our changes to the law were procedures to dismiss “vexatious” appeals which delay the process for those with genuine local concerns, which must be addressed as well as the need for the applicant for a timely decision. Again, Government did not accept these changes.
We also wanted to encourage applicants to engage in a real and practical way with their adjoining neighbours and address concerns at a much earlier stage, as I have now included in the new Wind Farm Guidelines, and that this would be taken into consideration when determining a licence application or an appeal, but this was not accepted by Government.
On top of this we also tried to ensure that there was a balance in the new law so that it was not just the application itself that was considered but the cumulative impact that this was having on a local community, something that will be taken into account in the new Wind Farm rules; that people would have ample time to make an appeal; and that the fees for an appeal would be set at a reasonable level so that genuine concerns could be submitted to the appeal process. Again, this need for a balanced system was rejected by Government.
This new law is now in place and I now hope that the statistics in the attached reply are turned around and more importantly that decisions are turned around quickly in the interests of both local communities, whose lives have been put on hold and applicants for forestry licences.
Dáil reply on Forestry Licence delays: https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2020-07-30a.2480&s=forestry+naughten#g2481.q