Second legal warning to Bord na Mona over turf cutting on bog

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

A second warning sent to Bord na Mona after activity on bog

A second warning sent to Bord na Mona after activity on bog

A second warning threatening legal action has been sent to Bord na Móna after a group claimed that turf cutting took place on a bog.

The Friends of the Irish Environment has sent another warning to the semi-state company not to carry out activities on its bogs without planning permission.

The group said that this was done after activity on Timahoe Bog in Laois. 

However they may have issued the wrong location. There is no bog near Timahoe in Laois, but there is near Timahoe in Kildare.

FIE issued a statement this Thursday, May 26.

"Bord na Mona has received a second solicitor’s letter warning that ongoing continuing industrial peat extraction on its bogs is unauthorised. The new warning relates to land leased by Bord na Mona to a private operator on the semi-state body’s Timahoe Bog in County Laois".
 
Earlier this month solicitors acting for Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] warned Bord na Mona and the leading industrial peat extraction organisations that the recent decision by An Bord Pleanala to allow Bord na Mona to apply for ‘substitute consent’ does not permit peat harvesting to recommence.  
 
"A decision to grant leave to apply for substitute consent simply permits a further application for substitute consent which will only authorise previous works.  In no way does it authorise development," it said.

The planning requirements are a result of a successful legal action taken by FIE last Autumn which struck down the Government’s 2019 Statutory Instrument attempting to exempt peat extraction from planning controls.
 
The Court stated that it was wrong for the Governments’ "sweep of the pen which has eliminated the right of citizens and NGOs to take enforcement action".
 
After recent media reports that the turf cutting season is "in full swing on privately owned bogs", warnings copying the Bord na Mona letter were issued to Michael Fitzmaurice, TD, the Chairman of the TCCA and Luke Ming Flannigan, MEP, their PRO, as well as to  John Neenan, the chairperson of Growing Media Ireland (GMI) which represents the majority of the country’s privately-owned producers of horticulture peat.
 
"The requirement for planning permission for sites of over 30 hectares is the law and any extraction undertaken without permission is unauthorised. Sites of over 10 hectares require planning permission but not an Environmental Impact Assessment."
 

Bord na Mona said last week that it was taking the group’s letter, issued by solicitors O’Connell Clarke ‘seriously’.

In a letter to all employees dated Monday, 18 May, 2020, Bord na Mona chief executive Tom Donnellan  described the correspondence from FIE's solicitors as “a threat that we will take seriously as it follows their challenge to ABP which ultimately struck down plans for the phased transition of two Midlands power stations to net zero emissions. Our plans and applications will be reviewed again in light of this current threat by FIE, with a view to taking every measure possible to ensure we submit the strongest possible substitute consent applications to ABP".

Tony Lowes of FIE said that this was not the only report the group had received of continuing industrial extraction on the high bogs of the midlands.

"We always advise callers to contact their Local Authority, but almost inevitable they will not do so for a very palpable fear of social retribution," he said.

Mr Lowes said that a Just Transition fund was in place to support workers in these "sunset industries" for just this purpose.

"The industries’ claims that no substitutes for the growing medium are available is simply not true. What is true is that excellent substitutes are available – even from one of the foreign companies operating in Ireland - but that they cost money when peat has always been virtually free.

"Our bogs must urgently be rewetted to meet our biodiversity commitments, to attenuate flooding, and to allow them to return to their natural function of absorbing greenhouse gases," he said.