Peat extraction operations need permission, judge rules

An Bord Pleanala’s decisions follow Friends of the Irish Environment’s queries

Mr Justice Charles Meenan dismissed two separate challenges  over decisions by An Bord Pleanála that peat extraction activities were not exempted development after September 20th, 2012.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan dismissed two separate challenges over decisions by An Bord Pleanála that peat extraction activities were not exempted development after September 20th, 2012.

 

Two peat harvesting companies have lost their challenges to decisions of An Bord Pleanála that their activities are no longer exempt development.

The board’s decisions arose after Friends of the Irish Environment queried the development status of the companies’ operations.

In his High Court judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan dismissed two separate challenges, one by Bulrush Horticulture Ltd and the second by Westland Horticulture Ltd, Westmeath Peat Ltd and Cavan Peat Ltd, over decisions by the board in April 2013 that their activities were not exempted development after September 20th, 2012.

Bulrush, of Magherafelt, Co Derry, has since 2003 operated a milled peat production facility at Camagh Bog near Castlepollard, Westmeath, 80 hectares of which is subject to peat extraction. Extraction of peat from the lands began about 1983, the judge noted.

Westland has carried out commercial peat extraction operations since 1993 on lands at Coole, Mayne, Ballinealloe and, since 1999, on lands at Clonsura, respectively leased from Westmeath Peat and Cavan Peat. The lands comprise a total 272 hectares.

The case involved considering the Planning Acts, regulations giving effect to the EC Environmental Impact Directive and the Habitats Directive and, “critically”, the Environmental (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, the judge noted.

The 2011 Act provided that developments which require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) or appropriate assessment (AA) were no longer exempt from the requirement to have planning permission. The relevant provision came into effect on September 21st, 2012.

The board concluded the effect of the Directives and the 2011 Act was that drainage of boglands, peat extraction, access from public roads, peat handling activities and other associated activities are “development” which was exempt until September 20th, 2012 but not after that date.