FAC: Number of forestry appeals in 2020 nearly 3 times that for both 2017 and 2018

The number of forestry appeals received by the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) so far in 2020 – some 689 appeals – is almost three times the amount received in 2017 and 2018 combined, which was a total of 231.

These figures were revealed by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue following a parliamentary question on the Forestry Appeals Committee from Social Democrats Jennifer Whitmore.

FAC work

In his response, the minister said: “The work of the FAC continues on a daily basis in relation to the processing of appeals, circulation of information and publishing the outcome of appeals on the website.

“In 2018 and 2019, the FAC held 47 and 45 hearings respectively. To date in 2020, the FAC have held 182 hearings,” the minister said, adding that, since March 30, 2020, these meetings have been held remotely.

Since the FAC was established, the number of appeals has increased significantly: The number of forestry licence appeals received in 2019 was 489 in respect of 311 licences – which was more than double the combined total of appeals received in 2017 and 2018 – 231 in respect of 169 licences.

“To date in 2020, there have been 689 forestry appeals received against 444 licences.

New legislation

“We have also proposed new legislation amending the Agriculture Appeals Act which is designed to align forestry licensing appeals process with best practice in other appeals processes.

“For instance, it includes proposals for the appointment of deputy chairpersons and the creation of sub-divisions of the main committee which will increase capacity to hold hearings. Certain other efficiencies in the operation of the committee are also proposed.

My department has received almost 9,000 submissions in response to the publication of the draft bill. The level of engagement with this legislation is very welcome.

“Early analysis by officials of my department shows a significant majority of submissions received support the introduction of the bill and the proposals therein.

“The careful examination of submissions is continuing ahead of publishing them on my department’s website.

“The submissions will inform the updated version of the bill, which I will present to the House in the next fortnight subject to all procedures being complete.

Additional resources have previously been assigned to the FAC, including additional administrative resources and personnel with planning expertise, to assist with administering appeals.

“These will be added to shortly to ensure their readiness for the implementation of the Bill, subject to its passing in the Oireachtas,” the minister concluded.