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Cabinet set to approve Bill aiming to address forestry licence backlog

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The Cabinet is to approve a series of forestry sector reforms today following a warning from semi-State firm Coillte that delays in the licencing process could lead to timber shortages and thousands of job losses.

The Cabinet is expected to approve a Bill that would reform “as a matter of urgency” the way appeals lodged against forestry licences are handled. It would allow the Forestry Appeals Committee to increase in size and hear more than one appeal at a time. The committee would also be allowed to determine appeals without an oral hearing in cases where doing so is deemed appropriate.

The forestry industry has said appeals to tree-felling licences are not being dealt with quickly enough, with around 400 understood to be before the committee and decisions coming at a rate of around 20 a month.

Sources have said that the Bill will not include any restrictions on who can appeal against the granting of a licence. Under previous proposals, objections would be limited to a ‘relevant person or body’. After a period of public consultation, during which nearly 9,000 submissions were received, it was decided to remove that provision.

Citizen access

Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry Pippa Hackett is expected to tell the Cabinet that this would ensure that direct access to the appeals process remains for all citizens It is understood that Ms Hackett is keen for the Bill to pass through the Oireachtas over the next fortnight.

An independent study on the economic, social and environmental impacts of forestry in Co Leitrim has been commissioned by the Government.
Collite warned that if it runs out of timber, the State’s sawmills will face drastic shortages of raw materials.

Ministers are to be told that if the appeals are not worked through, both planting and felling would remain at an “almost total standstill” and that this could put thousands of jobs at risk.

Collite warned that if it runs out of timber the State’s sawmills will face drastic shortages of raw materials. It said the backlog had led to the cancellation of multiple timber auctions.

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