No force majeure for landowner who felled grant aided forest
Spread of bovine TB cannot be used as an excuse to remove grant-aided afforestation, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s recent ruling on a case where a landowner removed forestry from some land he had purchased.
This plantation was established with support under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme by the previous owner who, as it stands, remains responsible for any liabilities arising from the scheme.
The previous owner advised the department in January 2020 that the site had been sold.
He was issued with instructions from the department regarding change of ownership, and steps to be taken to effect same, including being advised of the requirement for full repayment of all grants and premiums, if a new owner does not continue in the scheme.
“To date, the new owner has not yet applied to continue in the scheme,” said a department spokesperson.
The case was the subject of a question in the Dáil from Fianna Fáil Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill.
In reply, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said his department advised representatives of the new owner in April 2020 of the scheme conditions, that remaining premiums would not be paid to the new owner unless a change of ownership under the scheme was effected, and that deforestation is not allowed under the scheme, unless alternative lands are replanted, in accordance with the scheme conditions.
The new owner was also advised that TB was not a reason to deforest, that any felling required a felling licence under the Forestry Act 2014, and that illegal felling is an offence, and can result in fines.
Mr McConalogue said: “I have asked department officials to review all aspects of this case in light of the information above and to communicate directly with the parties involved.
“If illegal felling has taken place, this will be fully investigated and result in prosecution, if appropriate.”
Mr Cahill had asked the minister if the person will be permitted to not have to repay the premium and plantation grant for the six acres of forestry that he or she had to take out after six years of growth, in order to control the spread of tuberculosis on his or her land; and if this will be considered as force majeure.