I propose to take Questions Nos. 656 to 659, inclusive, together.
The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022, published in December 2017, sets out how the raised bog special areas of conservation are to be managed, conserved and restored and how the needs of turf cutters are to be addressed. The relocation of turf cutters from raised bog special areas of conservation to non-designated bogs is one of the options being pursued to address their needs, as set out in the National Plan.
58 applications under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme have been received from turf cutters from Ballynafagh Bog special area of conservation, County Kildare. Of these 58 applicants, 9 have expressed an interest in relocation to a non-designated bog.
The process involved in relocating these turf cutters to the non-designated Coolree Bog involves:
i. An assessment of the site as regards turf quality and quantity;
ii. Establishing the number that can be accommodated there;
iii. Engaging in land purchase negotiations and the conclusion of a contract for sale;
iv. An application for planning permission; and
v. The completion of infrastructure and drainage works on the site, subject to the securing of planning permission.
Prior to relocation to Coolree Bog, the turf cutters will be required to enter into a legal agreement with myself, as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This legal agreement will grant each turf cutter a turbary right on a plot within Coolree Bog on which he or she may exercise the right to cut turf until the turf is exhausted. Each plot of bog will be comprised of not less than 1 acre of high bog together with an area of spread ground.
To date, my Department has spent approximately €103,000 progressing the relocation of cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme applicants from Ballynafagh Bog special area of conservation to the non-designated Coolree Bog.
I am advised that the upper limit of the total quantity of peat that is expected to be removed as a result of turf cutting at Coolree Bog is 175,500m3. The estimated carbon loss from the 175,500m3 of peat to be removed is calculated as 35,398 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq).
Over the estimated operational lifetime of the relocation site, total carbon loss equates to 545 tCO2eq per annum. That is equivalent to the annual emissions of 43 people in Ireland (based on a per capita emission of 12.57 tCO2eq per annum).
Coolree Bog is an already degraded site. The relocation of turf cutters to Coolree Bog is to replace the activity at Ballynafagh Bog special area of conservation, which is a more sensitive site. My Department intends to carry out restoration measures at Ballynafagh Bog special area of conservation and this work will result in improving the carbon sink capabilities within that designated site.
The vast majority of the qualifying cessation of turf cutting compensation applicants from Ballynafagh Bog special area of conservation are being provided with financial compensation under this scheme. My Department is only seeking to relocation a small fraction of these applicants. This is in line with my aim to address the needs of turf cutters as part of an overall raised bog designated network solution, as set out in the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022. This involves a balance of protecting traditional rights, providing compensation where these rights are curtailed and seeking to facilitate feasible alternatives where possible, while working to ensure that Ireland meets its legal obligations, in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive.