The commencement of the Forestry Act, 2014 in May, 2017 brought about significant changes in the consent process for forestry operations. Felling licences are now valid for up to 10 years and may cover several felling events, such as thinning then clear felling on the same plot. Land owners considering future operations have the opportunity of applying for a tree felling licence well in advance of any operations taking place. This was likely a contributory factor to the doubling in the number of felling licences applied for from 2017 to 2018, from 3,300 to 6,600.
In 2018 and to end July 2019, 8,764 felling licences have been issued, 80% of which were issued within four months, with 90% issued within six months. The number of felling licences issued this year has doubled on that issued in the same period in 2018. That is, 1,819 issued in 2018 and 3,639 issued in 2019.
There are a number of reasons why decisions on felling licences may be delayed. In the first instance, applications may be returned to the applicant as they are missing certain information or required documentation is not provided. Following on from that, having been reviewed by the district inspector and because of the specifics of the site in question, my Department’s archaeology or ecology services may be required. This would be where the proposed felling site contains or is near to an archaeological monument or near to or within a Natura site. Further, if a site is within a Special Area of Conservation or a Special Area of Protection, the input of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) must be obtained before a decision may issue. All information from referrals and submissions must be carefully considered before an approval issues and this means that the process is somewhat longer for those cases.
There are currently 673 felling licence applications on hand. In relation to 2018, the number on hand is 249, which means that over 96% of 2018 applications have been processed.