The Mackinnon Report carried out by Jim Mackinnon, former Chief Planner with the Scottish Government reviewed the forestry approval process and related issues in Ireland. This was similar to an exercise which Mr. Mackinnon had previously conducted for the Scottish authorities. It was published at the end of last year and presented to the Forestry Programme Implementation Group in January. Its implementation is one of the commitments which this Government made for forestry in the Programme for Government.
The report was informed by, among other things, discussions with a range of stakeholders including the forestry sector, farming organisations, the environmental pillar, State Bodies, Teagasc and the Forestry Appeals Committee. In addition, written submissions were received at the time.
The report includes 22 Ways Forward or recommendations across a range of issues. I am pleased to say that many of these recommendations have already been taken on board by the Department and acted upon. We have, for instance in line with Mackinnon, introduced an amendment to the Agriculture Appeals Act and have issued guidance on Natura Impact Statements. We have also introduced a single consent system for forestry road planning
I recognise, of course, that it is very important that the report is fully implemented and that is why I am currently examining the appointment of an independent chair to oversee the process. The intention is that this person will report on the feasibility of implementing the MacKinnon recommendations for us to consider further. newly commissioned Forestry Programme Implementation Group, to monitor progress and to help deliver on its ambition. A review of the Forestry Programme Implementation Group is currently underway to enhance representation so that the membership on the Group is best selected to help advise the Minister and the Department on the implementation of the National Programme.
There is a huge amount of activity in forestry at the moment especially on the reform of the planning and appeals processes and the signing into law of the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 last week. Nonetheless, I am well aware that implementation of MacKinnon is also a priority and I expect to be making further announcements on this issue in the near future.