Ireland has been warned by the European Commission to designate more special areas of conservation. 

If Ireland fails to respond, the commission may take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Farmers have had long-standing problems surrounding land designation, resulting in IFA recently instructing National Parks and Wildlife and Birdwatch Ireland personnel to keep off farmers’ land, but the warning to Ireland from the commission points to even more special areas of conservation problems ahead.

In line with the EU’s Habitats Directive, member states have had six years to designate protected areas under their national law.

This requires converting sites of community interest to special areas of conservation — an environmental designation which results in significant restrictions on farming activities and other developments, according to IFA.

Ireland has formally designated only a minor proportion of its sites of community interest as special areas of conservation. 

The commission is giving Ireland two months to reply to its warning to establish required conservation goals and conservation measures for all sites of community interest sites.

IFA national chairman Jer Bergin said that when designations were first imposed, commitments were given that compensation would be paid where farmers suffered losses. 

“However, in recent years these commitments have not been honoured.”

He called on the new government to honour the agreement, with proper consultation; a workable, independent appeals system; and full compensation to take account of devaluation of land, where restrictions are imposed.

IFA special areas of conservation project team chairman Tom Turley said the National Parks and Wildlife Service farm plan scheme will have to be available for all designated farmland.

He said farmers who wish to plant forestry in areas designated for the hen harrier must be allowed to maximise the potential of their land.


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