Mark Sheeran with Sinn Féin TDs Matt Carthy and Brian Stanley at CJ Sheerhan HQ in Mountrath
Log jams in timber industry need to be cleared because they are forcing local sawmills to import raw material despite Laois being one of the most afforested counties in Ireland, according to Laois Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley.
The TD visited local companies in Laois impacted. After the meeting he said the current difficulties in the timber industry cannot be allowed to continue.
“Last week I visited Mountrath and Coolrain Sawmills along with Matt Carty, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Agriculture and Forestry to discuss with Management the problems they are experiencing regarding timber supplies. We met with Mark Sheeran owner of Mountrath and Coolrain Mills and Declan Hutchinson Manager of Coolrain.
“The timber industry is a very important industry in Laois/Offaly. This is an area where there are not a lot of IDA backed jobs or major industries. It is central to the local economy and creates badly needed employment.
“Unfortunately the industry is experiencing huge problems at the moment with timber supplies. We have the ridiculous situation where timber that is ready to be cut in the Slive Blooms area, just up the road from the sawmill cannot be harvested.
“This is forcing a situation where some of the supplies at the local sawmills have to be imported from Scotland,” he said.
The TD said farmers are also being hit.
“Difficulties are being experienced by farmers seeking permission to plant trees and the situation is even more difficult regarding harvesting licences. The process of obtaining permission to plant and “Felling’ licences is over bureaucratic. There are in the region of 5000 “Felling’ licences held up in the system. Some of these are in the system for a long time. We have one case in the Constituency where a man is waiting almost 3 years for a licence to harvest 20 acres of trees. This has created a situation where potential growers and farmers are reluctant to get involved in forestry schemes.
“If the current situation is not addressed without delay it poses potential risk to jobs and restricts the industry from expanding.
“This is also leading to difficulties with supplies of timber to the construction sector and increasing the price of raw material,’ he said in a statement.
The Laois Offaly TD said his party supports the proposals from the all party Dáil committee to streamline the process.
He explained that, at present, three sets of permissions are required and involves three separate processes for planting, thinning and the harvesting and permission to construct access roads to forests.
He said there needs to be a single streamlined process right through from planting to harvesting so as to give certainty to growers and to simplify the application.
He added that the working groups established by the Government are little more than talking shops and is just further delaying matters.
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