Farmers take legal action against Coillte over alleged unlawful planting

Legal proceedings have begun against semi-state forestry firm Coillte in relation to the alleged unlawful planting of lands neighbouring one of its forestry plantations in Co. Tipperary.

The proceedings were taken by Eamon and Mary Ryan of Upperchurch, Co. Tipperary, against Coillte in the form of an equity civil bill earlier this month.

According to the civil bill, seen by AgriLand, land belonging to Eamon Ryan’s father, which adjoined the disputed land in question, was sold to Coillte in 1961. The lands were then planted by the semi-state body.

Eamon Ryan inherited the lands in question in 1994. In late 2019, the Ryans inspected the map of their lands in the Land Registry Office and “were shocked to discover that the defendant [Coillte] had planted part of the lands in their ownership”.

Communication with Coillte

The bill states that the Ryans’ solicitor wrote to Coillte earlier this year to try and resolve the issue. In response, Coillte’s legal affairs manager allegedly admitted that it had planted the land in question, believed to be approximately 2ac.

[Coillte] then threatened to bring an action for adverse possession to acquire ownership of the [Ryans’] lands when it was clear that [Coillte], its servants or agents, has been guilty of [diverse] and repeated acts of trespass and/or nuisance in respect of said lands.

The civil bill alleges that by reason of trespass and/or nuisance the Ryans have suffered loss and damage, adding that Coillte, notwithstanding correspondence between the parties to try and remedy the issue, “intends to continue to use the plaintiffs’ [Ryans’] lands and repeat the acts complained of unless restrained by injunction”.

The Ryans, represented by Sligo-based firm Carter Anhold & Co Solicitors, are seeking: an injunction to prevent Coillte from going onto their lands and trespassing on their lands; a mandatory order for Coillte to remove the trees planted on the lands and restore them to pasture; “further or in the alternative damages for trespass and/or nuisance”; interest; and costs.

In response to a query from AgriLand, a Coillte spokesperson said: “As the matter is currently before the courts, we will not be commenting before judgements are arrived at.”