Compensation package on the table for farmers impacted by SAC designation

Farmers and landowners whose lands were designated under Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are close to reaching a compensation deal with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

AgriLand understands that discussions – which have being taking place for the last 18 months – between Minister Josepha Madigan and the farm bodies in an effort to find a resolution to the matter, have started to produce some positive results.

At this stage it is anticipated that a funding allocation – in respect of the matter –  will be announced in the upcoming budget.

It is expected the Farm Plan Scheme – which was previously administered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) – will be reinstated.

Currently, 13.6% of the land area designated under SAC and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) impacts approximately 35,000 farmers in Ireland.

Many of them discovered – under the designation – that farming and development restrictions devalued their property, lead to a loss in income and a subsequent deterioration in land because they were not permitted to carry out necessary maintenance.

Compensation delivery

IFA SAC project team chairman Padraic Joyce, meanwhile, has called on Minister Madigan to deliver for “the farmers with designated natura land whose livelihoods are negatively impacted by designations”.

He pointed out that what was crucial now was the introduction of a package of measures – in the forthcoming budget – that will allow for the reopening of the Farm Plan Scheme which, he added, “has been closed since 2010”.

There have been ongoing discussions for the past 18 months with officials in the department.

Joyce continued: “While a final agreement is close, the main issue for the minister now is the provision of a meaningful compensation scheme for farmers affected by designations. Discussions will mean very little if the minister does not deliver a proper compensation scheme as part of the next budget in October.”

‘A permanent payment is all we want’

Meanwhile, chairman of the Shannon Action Committee Charlie Killeen told AgriLand recently that the state was benefiting massively from land designation.

He insisted at the time that all effected landowners wanted was “a permanent payment funded by the state”.

Killeen lost 130ac of his land to designation and has been fighting for 22 years for farmers – like himself – in the Shannon Callows region to be compensated for the losses they have suffered.

He says there are numerous farmers in that region whose land devalued and became subjected to serious flooding – particularly in 2009 and again in 2015 – because of the restrictions imposed under the designation.

The Farm Plan Scheme – which provided some compensation to affected farmers in the Shannon Callows – ceased in 2012 and Killeen has been highly critical of the move citing that the money from the scheme was diverted to compensate turf-cutters when the ban on turf-cutting was introduced in 2011.