Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (90)

Billy Timmins


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]

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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.