Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Questions (1128, 1129)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

1128. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason submissions made by the public in respect of forestry planning applications are not accessible to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18431/19]

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Joe Carey

Question:

1129. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason the process of submitting an observation or objection to the establishment of a forestry contract plantation, as administered by his Department, is not dealt with in the same way as a planning permission submission or objection as per the Planning and Development Act 2000 with respect to broad public access to the objection submitted, an independent appeals body and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18454/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1128 and 1129 together.

The Planning and Development Acts make specific provision for submissions to be made available to the public. It must be noted that submissions made under these Acts are not generally available on the local authority website, but are held on file and made available to view in the local authority offices or copies provided for a fee.

Submissions and observations are accepted from the public on forestry licence applications. Such submissions may be made within 30 days from the date of publication of the notice of the forestry licence application. Any submissions received are forwarded to the relevant forestry inspector in my Department, where they are carefully considered as part of the assessment of the entire application. When requested, documents relating to the application are made available, such as maps, plot details and species. No provision was made in the Forestry Act, 2014 nor the Forestry Regulations, 2017, on the public availability of submissions, similar to that in the Planning and Development Acts.

With regard to the independent Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) which is based in the Agriculture Appeals Office in Portlaoise, any submissions made on a licence application are made available to the FAC. This is done as part of the complete file, if there is an appeal against a decision on a licence.