Setback distances for forest plantations

 

Sir, – With climate action and the green economy likely to be at the centre of any new programme for government, I would like the incoming government to address the current inadequate standards for forestry setback distances from dwellings.

The current setback is 60 metres, which can be reduced to 30 metres with the written consent of the owner of a dwelling. This leaves dwellings surrounded on two or more sides by forestry and those living in them feeling isolated, boxed in and without light and facing a potentially very serious fire hazard.

The current guidelines for wind farm developments, with which I am familiar, set a sensible minimum distance of 500 metres from any dwelling, or four times turbine height. Yet wind turbines do not impinge on adjacent dwellings and their occupants to anything near the extent that commercial forestry does.

Mature spruce can range in height from 20 metres to 60 metres depending on ground conditions. A minimum setback of 60 metres is not adequate to counter the isolation, light exclusion and fire risks created by forestry plantations. Devastating forest fires in California and Australia bear painful testimony to this fact.

We need to increase afforestation. Carbon sequestration, viable land use, supporting farm incomes and greater self-sufficiency in wood products demand that we do. If we are to be successful we need the support of rural communities for new forestry plantations.

The next government should increase setbacks from dwellings for current and new plantations to 250 metres, or 125 metres with the written consent of the dwelling owner. Future plantations should abide by these more socially acceptable and safer setback distances. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN McGRATH,

Sutton, Dublin 13.