Turf saving under threat
The next government must exempt peat operators from requiring planning permission when extracting peat from sites in excess of 30 hectares, according to Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan.
Deputy Nolan was speaking after Bord na Móna, in a letter to its employees, indicated that unless there is such a legislative change then it will be forced to apply for and receive planning permission from each of the six county councils in which its bogs are located.
“Bord na Mona have made it explicitly clear that urgent legislative changes are required if we are to avoid an annual repetition of tiresome and delaying processes, of the kind that workers and the company have just been through with An Bord Pleanála," Deputy Nolan said.
"We have to recall that such exemptions, in the form of Statutory Instruments (SIs) were in fact put in place by both the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment in January 2019 before they were struck down by the Courts.
"The decision of the High Court followed a Judicial Review by Friends of the Earth.
"If this means that we have to go back and re-examine the existing Environmental Protection Agency legislation which is at the heart of this issue, then that is what needs to happen.
"I am still deeply concerned by the view put forward by Friends of the Earth when they took the High Court Challenge in 2019. At that time, they clearly stated that 'stopping all peat extraction is a no-brainer.
"This is a very clear window into the kind of mindset that is at play here. If we keep going down this road, then it will not just be Bord Na Móna workers who suffer, it will be every single person and industry that wants to maintain the right to engage in even the smallest amount of peat extraction.
"Only robust legislation guaranteeing such rights can achieve this,” concluded Deputy Nolan.