3% of applications to the previous afforestation programme under the last national forestry programme are now in ineligible areas in the new programme. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue confirmed this figure in response to a parliamentary question from Labour Party TD Brendan Howlin.
According to Minister McConalogue, all applicants with applications from the previous scheme have been contacted and given the option to opt into the new scheme. Currently, there are 437 applications from the previous programme that are still being processed. If an applicant chooses to opt in, their file is reviewed by department officials to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations of the new programme.
The minister stated that the new programme includes several changes that will impact the available area for planting. An analysis has been conducted on the afforestation files to determine if they are affected by the new restrictions. Out of the 437 applications, approximately 3% are located within 1.5km of a curlew site, making them ineligible under the conditions of the scheme. Minister McConalogue also noted that 24% of the applications are unaffected by the changes. The remaining applications will require further assessment to determine their eligibility, as they are in areas where new restrictions may apply, such as peat soils, high-nature-value areas, or breeding wader areas.
In another question, Brendan Howlin asked if the department is treating all forestry stakeholder groups equally in terms of facilitating meetings. Minister McConalogue responded by stating that members of all relevant stakeholder groups have met with the department through Project Woodland and have contributed equally to the development of the Forestry Programme 2023 to 2027. He also mentioned that Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett will establish a new Forestry Programme Consultative Committee (FPCC) in the coming weeks. The committee will consist of members selected from a broad range of stakeholders to ensure ongoing engagement and a successful outcome for the Forestry Strategy implementation plan and the Forestry Programme 2023-2027.