Bord na Móna’s future turf-cutting plans bogged down in legal confusion

State company has seven applications before An Bord Pleanála for ‘substitute consent’

Bord na Móna suspended peat harvesting in June.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Bord na Móna suspended peat harvesting in June. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Planning law confusion and a potential High Court challenge threaten to bog down future Bord na Móna efforts to harvest peat in the Republic.

The State company has seven applications before An Bord Pleanála for “substitute consent” for industrial peat harvesting, a move meant to pave the way for it to seek permission for future turf-cutting.

However, Bord na Móna confirmed on Wednesday that it was reviewing these applications in light of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that substitute consent – a form of planning retention – contravened EU environmental law.

The Supreme Court ruling casts doubt over the company’s plans to apply for permission to harvest peat in the future, as it would have first had to get substitute consent before making these applications.

Substitute consent allows organisations, “in exceptional circumstances”, to retrospectively seek permission from An Bord Pleanála for projects that should have had their environmental impact assessed before getting planning, but did not.

At the same time, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), is going to the High Court to challenge An Bord Pleanála’s decision to allow Bord na Móna to seek substitute consent in the first place.

FIE’s case is due for a brief initial hearing in the High Court next week. The environmental charity confirmed that it is challenging the An Bord Pleanála decision in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

Redeployed

Bord na Móna suspended peat harvesting in June. The company said that it has redeployed workers to peatland rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, Bord na Móna’s annual report, published on Wednesday, shows that the State company paid chief executive Tom Donnellan a total of €337,000 in the 12 months ended March 25th, 2020.

Mr Donnellan’s basic salary was €225,000, contributions to his pension were €56,000 while he received the same amount in taxable benefits.

Bord na Móna appointed him on April 16th, 2018. He received a total of €308,000 in his first 11 months at the State company’s helm.

Its annual report shows that the company more than halved losses in its last financial year to €22.5 million.

Bord na Móna’s operations produced a profit of €40.4 million. Restructuring costs associated with its shift from peat harvesting and processing to energy, recycling and other businesses left it with a deficit for the year.