IFA SAC Chairman Padraic Joyce is insisting that a new agreement be established to set out the terms under which the EU Habitats and Bird’s Directive is to be implemented.

IFA has set out the key issues that must be addressed in the new agreement at a meeting with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Padraic Joyce said, “It is now 11 years since the last agreement on the implementation of the EU Habitats and Bird’s Directive. Many of the commitments entered into have not been honoured, particularly in the area of providing proper compensation for designations imposed on landowners.

“The new Heritage Minister, Josepha Madigan and her Department must recognise the frustration designation is causing among farmers and landowners and must commit to a fresh agreement that will deal with farmers’ concerns, provide proper compensation for the restrictions imposed, and allow for increased flexibility in how farmers manage and make use of designated land.”

IFA is seeking to conclude an agreement within 3 months and believes that until such time as the new agreement is put in place, the designation process which involves formalisation of previous proposed designations should be immediately halted.

The measures IFA is seeking in the new agreement include:

  1. The NPWS service must engage in a positive way when it comes to planning so that developments are allowed on designated areas subject to the protection of the environment.  Flexibility is required to ensure that both the development and the environmental objectives are respected.
  2. In relation to compensation, the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme was an integral part of the compensation mechanism, along with measures under the Department of Agriculture agri-environmental programmes. IFA is insisting that the Farm Plan Scheme is fully restored with proper funding. This will allow farmers to have the option of an NPWS scheme or a DAFM scheme or both and will ensure that all aspects of the designations can be covered by a compensation scheme.
  3. IFA is particularly concerned at the delay in producing the Threat Response Plan for Hen Harrier area promised 3 years ago and is insisting that afforestation be allowed in Hen Harrier areas under guidelines.
  4. In relation to devaluation of land, an arbitration process must be formally established with personnel appointed who can access disputes where landowners feel their property has been devalued.
  5. A proper notification process must be put in place, including ensuring that the consequences of designation are explained fully to farmers on a one-to-one level.
  6. In relation to appeals, the designated appeals body should produce an annual report of its work and must be shown to be truly independent. In addition, the landowner’s representatives should be financially supported to challenge the designation process. This will improve the outcome of the appeals process ensuring that all aspects are taken into account in the designation process.