Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (90)

Billy Timmins

Question:

91 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will offer incentives to farmers to encourage them to open up their lands to facilitate hill walking. [8124/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The first rural environment protection scheme included a supplementary measure under which participants could receive payment for granting public access to their lands.

My Department proposed to include a similar provision in the current scheme. However, this scheme is governed by a different EU regulation from its predecessor, and the current regulation does not provide for co-funded payment, under an agri-environment measure, for the use of land for public access and leisure facilities. Recognising this fact, my Department proposed to include the public access supplementary measure as a state aid, fully funded by the Exchequer. The European Commission held, however, that the governing regulation precluded the inclusion of a public access measure in REPS even as a state aid.

There is no other provision under which my Department can offer incentives to encourage use of land for hill walking. I understand that the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is currently reviewing the situation in regard to public access to land.