Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Questions (218)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

218. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of forestry felling and planting licence applications awaiting a decision; the details of the backlog; the number of weeks applicants are waiting for a decision in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4511/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department is required to carefully assess all forestry licence applications to ensure that, among other things, environmental and landscape considerations are taken into account and that appropriate prescribed bodies are fully consulted.

Timeframes for processing applications have been committed to in the Farmers Charter and every effort is made to meet these deadlines. Decisions on valid tree felling licences are to issue within four months. Approvals of valid afforestation licence applications are to issue within 10 weeks, except where consultation is required under law where the timeframe is 14 to 18 weeks, where practicable.

In 2018, 1,082 completed applications for afforestation licences were received and acknowledged. Decisions issued on 861 applications. A total of 5,969 tree felling licence applications were received in 2018, with 3,603 licences issued. It is important to note that the balance of cases are not necessarily awaiting further work as it is not unusual for completed applications to be received and acknowledged by my Department, but subsequently withdrawn by the applicant.

The following tables show the quarterly returns on approvals granted and decisions made in the context of the Farmers' Charter timeframes:

Afforestation Licence Approvals within Farmers’ Charter timeframes 2018

Month

Quarterly returns

March

89%

June

83%

October

80%

December

74%

Tree Felling Licence Approvals within Farmers’ Charter timeframes 2018

Month

Quarterly returns

March

68%

June

56%

October

88%

December

77%

As the figures demonstrate, processing times are largely consistent with the agreed targets. There have however been unavoidable delays due, in the main, to a complete review of Appropriate Assessment Procedures, on foot of a European Court of Justice ruling. In addition, there were some delays in appointing additional archaeological resources which has now been addressed with the appointment of two new Grade 3 archaeologists who are making significant progress in dealing with cases on hand.