Written Answers. - Special Protection Areas.

Dan Neville

Question:

413 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he will direct Dúchas to publish maps of areas which it proposes to designate as SPAs to protect hen harriers to enable full consultation with land owners and people who live in the areas affected before coming to a final decision on its recommendations to the Minister. [10955/03]

Dan Neville

Question:

414 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if, in view of his acceptance of a breakdown in communications between Dúchas and planning regulatory authorities regarding the introduction of SPAs to protect hen harriers, he will direct the planning authorities and the forest services to disregard submissions made by Dúchas in relation to hen harrier protection prior to full clarification by him on all aspects of the issue. [10956/03]

John Cregan

Question:

420 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he will direct Dúchas to publish maps of areas affected by the designation of hen harrier SPAs for consultation purposes only without restrictions (legal protection), in order to allow fair and proper consultation, as is required by EU law, with all the landowners and people who live in these proposed areas. [11141/03]

John Cregan

Question:

421 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he will instruct all planning authorities and the Forestry Service that there are no restrictions in these SPAs at the moment and will not be until there has been full and proper consultation with all people living in these areas; and if, following the consultative process, he will direct the various planning authorities and the Forestry Service as to the restrictions that will apply and the areas in which they will apply. [11142/03]

John Cregan

Question:

422 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he will direct all planning authorities throughout the country and the Forestry Service to disregard any and all comments and direction they have received from Dúchas in relation to the hen harrier in view of concerns expressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11143/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 413, 414, 420, 421 and 422 together.

The designation procedure for special protection areas, SPAs, involves notification, including maps, to be sent to known landowners in the area concerned, to the relevant planning authorities and to the Forestry Service, among others. My Department also arranges for notices to be displayed in Garda stations and certain Government offices, and for local radio and newspaper advertising. Following this formal notification, landowners and other bodies have three months in which to object or seek modification of proposals. Without prejudice to the final determination of these issues, relevant regulations provide for protective provisions to take effect from the initial statutory notification of sites. Conversely, special protective provisions do not enter into force until the activation of the above notification procedures.
I intend that these procedures, which are supported by the European Communities (National Habitats) Regulations, will be observed in full in relation to any future designations to be made for the conservation of hen harriers or other species.
My Department has already issued revised advice to the Forestry Service in relation to the assessment of applications for forestry development in areas likely to be relevant to hen harrier conservation. This revised advice indicates that approvals for individual forestry applications of less than 20 hectares, subject to standard conditions for biodiversity conservation, may be considered as unlikely to impact on hen harrier conservation. It suggests that an appropriate impact assessment in relation to hen harriers should be requested for forestry applications greater than 20 hectares. Such an assessment need not involve a full environmental impact assessment.
My Department's advice of April 2002 to the planning authorities concerned related principally to windfarm development in the context of hen harrier conservation and requested EIA assessment and consultation in relation to individual developments. Since such requirements would, in any event, be required in virtually all cases under planning legislation, it would not be appropriate to revise this advice. However, no objection has been made by my Department to any proposed wind-farm development in the areas concerned arising from the above arrangements.