Independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan has said that the government must commit to introducing legislation that would exempt peat operators from requiring planning permission when extracting peat from sites in excess of 30ha.

Deputy Nolan was speaking following her attendance at the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee meeting today (Tuesday, February 16), that heard from representatives of the horticulture and growing media industry.

“Anyone listening to the representatives from the horticulture sector at today’s committee meeting can be left in doubt that it now faces a systemic and overwhelming threat to its future following the decision of Bord na Móna to withdraw from peat harvesting and production,” the deputy said.

Joint oireachtas committee

The meeting also heard from Growing Media Ireland which involves the majority of horticultural peat and growing media producers in Ireland (excluding Bord na Mona).

The group said that there is a clear need for a new statutory instrument and a “new permitting regime” for the sector in order to “provide a remedy to the immediate problem without creating new legislative or planning difficulties for the future”.

“This is something I have been calling for since May of last year when Bord na Móna first made it clear to its employees that urgent legislative changes were required if it was to avoid an annual repetition of time absorbing engagements with An Bord Pleanála,” deputy Nolan said.

We have to recall that the exemptions I have been calling for, in the form of Statutory Instruments (SIs), were in fact put in place by both the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment in January 2019 before they were struck down by the courts.

“The new situation we now find ourselves in however, demands that urgent reconsideration be given to the matter including a re-examination of existing Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] legislation.

“This government cannot stand idly by while an entire sector is on the verge of collapse. A robust legislative response must be forthcoming to secure the sector and the almost 20,000 jobs that are reliant on it,” deputy Nolan concluded.