Forestry licensing is a key priority for the Department. Afforestation is a key part of our plans and priorities for a number of areas including of course climate change and development of the rural economy. We are making significant progress on licensing output this year and are averaging 118 licences each week for the last 10 weeks. We expect to deliver 4,000 new licences this year.
Afforestation remains the one area where there has not been the licensing increase that we would like to see. This is now our main priority. We have a team of Forestry Inspectors, Ecologists, Archaeologists and administrative staff who are involved in licensing. We have 10 ecologists dedicated to afforestation licences now. Obviously licences vary in size, environmental impact and there is no one size fits all to their assessment.
As part of Project Woodland we are examining all options. This includes an end to end review of our systems and processes that is currently being carried out and a regulatory review is also about to start. This review will include an examination of experiences in other countries in licensing forestry activities and how they comply with EU legislation without experiencing the same issues that we have experienced in Ireland. And from this what lessons we can bring into our licensing systems.
While these initiatives are being developed, the Department continues to pursue continual improvement of our systems to help speed up the processing of licence applications.