Backlog of complaints stalling timber production for homebuilding

Department has pledged to hire more staff to do this work and possible fee for each appeal

A statutory right exists that in our  democracy people should be able to challenge state bodies’ planning decisions. File photograph: Getty

A statutory right exists that in our democracy people should be able to challenge state bodies’ planning decisions. File photograph: Getty

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

Irish law 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.

Unsurprisingly, people are excercising this right. However, the department’s Forestry Appeals Committee cannot keep up with the number of challenges, creating a two-year backlog that industry figures say has stalled the production of enough timber to build 50,000 new homes.Bodies such as Forestry Industry Ireland warn that the situation threatens timber supplies and the 12,500 jobs that its businesses support. The organisation is frustrated 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, 2014, could introduce a charge for each appeal. The industry wants some narrowing of the number of people who can make them in the first place.

Charging for appeals could be reasonable, but reducing the number of people who can make them raises difficult questions. This is a statutory right, given by the Oireachtas, that recognises that in a democracy people should be able to challenge state bodies’ planning decisions.

Limiting the right of appeal to those directly affected by licences seems sensible at one level. But forestry and the policies influencing it raise broader environmental issues, so excluding those with concerns on this front might not be fair or even wise.

The current delay in dealing with appeals also affects those taking them in the first place, which could include foresters challenging the refusal or terms of a licence. They also have a right to expect officials to deal efficiently with their concerns.

The bottom line is that the Oireachtas passed legislation, introduced by the government, giving a right to appeal forestry licences. The government’s job was then to put in place a system that could handle appeals efficiently. It failed to do this, with the result that everyone is losing out.

Business Today

Get the latest business news and commentarySIGN UP HERE
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.