A Dungiven farm business has been fined £2,500 in court for ploughing and reseeding uncultivated land without permission.
McCloskey Livestock Ltd. of Teeavan Road, Dungiven, was convicted at Limavady Magistrates Court sitting at Ballymena on September 15, 2021.
The case initially arose from a routine monitoring inspection visit by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
The business was sentenced for one offence under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007.
During 2019 and 2020, McCloskey Livestock Ltd. conducted an uncultivated land project without a screening decision or consent from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
The unpermitted works were conducted in the townlands of Monehanegan and Clonmakane at Loughermore. The business ploughed and reseeded semi-natural areas of Priority Habitat ‘Pealtand’ and semi-natural grassland to convert them into improved pasture.
The business also removed linear features from the landscape, including townland boundaries.
The department said it considered the works to have had a “significant adverse impact” on the environment.
“As well as damage and destruction to semi-natural areas important for biodiversity, the damage to large areas of peatland will result in the loss of a significant carbon-capture sink, i.e. a loss of Natural Capital,” a statement from DAERA read.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007 as amended, require the Department to assess the potential environmental impact of uncultivated land projects and restructuring projects where they meet or are greater than thresholds as laid out in the Regulations.
Uncultivated land projects include works to improve the agricultural productivity of lands that are defined as ‘uncultivated lands’ or that are semi-natural areas.