SPAs: Once valuable assets can’t be sold or developed

An SPA-designated landowner cannot meet her health care needs because her devalued farm has been on the market since 2012.

Designated land is typically worth only €800-1,200 per acre, compared to up to €5,500 for land suitable for forestry, outside designated areas.

Morris Flynn of the Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL) told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine the woman in her 70s from the UK came to Ireland and purchased about 30 acres adjacent to Mr Flynn’s land, where she lived for a while before returning to the UK and renting out the property.

“In 2012, she returned to Ireland to sell her property because she has serious health issues.

“When she returned to Ireland and learned that the land had been designated while she was away, the bottom fell out of her world. She has received nothing for that land.”

“She found out that I have been involved in the campaign on this issue for many years, and she appeared at my door in tears, because she needs money to meet her health care needs in the UK to the end of her days. It is soul destroying and unacceptable that anybody should have to do that.

“The carpet was pulled out from under our feet. We were codded, and the manner in which we have been treated is deplorable.”

Jason Fitzgerald of the IFDL said most farmers have been disadvantaged or devastated by land devaluation.

“Their plans for the future, their plans for retirement and the hope of going into a bank with something tangible in their hand are gone.

“These farmers are no longer able to borrow against the deeds of their land because bank managers see no value or opportunity in mature designated areas.”

“Farmers might want to invest in their business, or a medical emergency may occur, and they may need to sell a site. A death in the family may change everything. A farm that was once a valuable asset held with pride and care is now an asset that can be neither sold nor developed to take advantage of the economic opportunities that are available to neighbours.”

Cork North West Fianna Fail TD Michael Moynihan told the committee when land is for sale to which a hen harrier designation attaches, there are no bids, and no one will touch it with a barge pole because nothing can be done with it. He referred to a 120-acre property for which there was not even one bid over the past year, because so much of it is hen harrier designated.

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