The Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett has announced that the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020, which was signed by the President last Friday, commenced on enactment, yesterday Tuesday 6th October.
The Minister also confirmed that the secondary legislation required to give effect to the main provisions of the Act also came into force from today Wednesday 7th October.
Welcoming the Commencement Order, Minister Hackett emphasised the priority associated with the legislation to align her Department’s licensing process with other planning processes as set out in the programme for Government.
The Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act will provide a legal basis for the Forestry Appeals Committee to introduce procedures that allow for the better management of the volume of appeals in the system. The draft Bill was published on 31st July 2020 and was open to public consultation for four weeks to 28th August 2020. It prompted significant public engagement with nearly 9,000 submissions received by the closing date and over 80% of these submissions in favour of the draft Bill.
Commenting on the new measures, the Minister said, “These new arrangements will put in place an improved licencing and appeal system which will be more fit for purpose and better serve all stakeholders. I am moving quickly now to further resource the Forestry Appeals Committee so that it can deal with the backlog of appeals, which will bring certainty to those awaiting the outcome of those appeals.’’
In parallel with these developments, fees are being introduced for forestry applications, submissions and appeals. In addition, a forestry portal, with all application and site details available in a single website, will soon be opened to ensure more visible and transparent access to the forestry licensing process.
The Department is also addressing the backlog in processing licences. A project management plan is in place to deal in a systematic way with increasing the number of licences issued. Extra staff have been appointed in order to improve processing time. This includes additional ecologists, forestry inspectors and new administrative staff.
The Minister said “While these are all essential actions, our focus now is on implementation to ensure that the priority attached by Government to forestry can be delivered. The development of the new Forestry Programme is a key element of this. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to build a new model for Forestry in Ireland which will deliver for everyone. My aim is to ensure that the new Programme is compatible with policy across all sectors and in particular with our commitments under the Climate Action Plan.”