Thursday, 17 April 2014

Questions (145)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

145. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the degree to which he has completed discussions with the various interested parties affected by SACs and NHAs affecting turf cutters in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18413/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

Progress has been made with a view to the relocation of 7 qualifying turf cutters from Ballynafagh Bog special area of conservation in County Kildare to Timahoe North, County Kildare, which is in the ownership of Bord na Móna. My Department envisages that qualifying turf cutters from Ballynafagh Bog will be able to commence cutting in the relocation site during the 2014 turf cutting season, provided that an agreement is reached with them.

Lattins Bog, also known as Mouds North Bog, in County Kildare has been identified as a potential relocation site for turf cutters from Mouds Bog special area of conservation. Bord na Móna has undertaken a full suitability assessment for the site and my Department has provided a copy of the assessment report to the Secretary of the Committee of the Kildare Turf Cutters Association. This report illustrates that 19 turf cutters could be accommodated on the site. Bord na Móna, in consultation with the Department, is investigating the potential for the accommodation of additional turf cutters on the site.

Relocation is a very complex process in terms of investigating suitable sites for turf quality and quantity, the infrastructure and drainage works required, establishing the number of turf cutters who can be accommodated on the site, the cost and feasibility of land purchase or lease, and possible planning and Environmental Impact Assessment requirements.

A payment of €1,500, index-linked, or a supply of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum is available under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme to applicants while awaiting relocation to non-designated bogs.

The Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Areas, which is available to download from my Department’s website at http://www.ahg.gov.ie/en/Publications, provides detail on future arrangements regarding turf cutting on each of the 75 raised bog natural heritage areas. My Department has written to all property holders who could be identified in relation to the natural heritage area raised bogs to inform them of the results of the review including arrangements for obtaining permits to continue cutting and or compensation. The Department has also written to all contractors that have been identified as being affected by the review explaining future arrangements for turf cutting on these sites In addition, notices outlining the outcome of the review were placed in local papers.

Carbury Bog natural heritage area in County Kildare is one of the natural heritage areas which is to be conserved. In the case of this bog, the review envisages the cessation of turf cutting on the site by 1 January 2017 to preserve its conservation value. Turf cutting may continue on the bog until that date, on plots that have been cut in the five year period prior to the Government decision of 14 January, 2014 on the review.

To ensure that cutting does not intensify over the next 3 years, owners of plots or of turbary rights who have cut over the past 5 years must obtain a permit to cut from my Department. Contractors will also be obliged to obtain permits.

The review also envisages the complete or partial de-designation of 46 existing natural heritage areas where turf cutting may continue into the future. In these de-designation cases, it will not be necessary for individuals to seek consent to cut turf. Hodgestown Bog natural heritage area in County Kildare is one of these de-designation cases.

Any turf cutter required to cease turf cutting on a natural heritage area is being offered compensatory measures similar to those available to turf cutters from raised bog special areas of conservation. Such compensation will be available to qualifying persons with effect from 2014.

Question No. 146 answered with Question No. 143.