IFA Deputy President Richard Kennedy has called on Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan to demonstrate that restrictions that are imposed on farmers with designated Natura land are properly compensated for with the reopening of the NPWS Farm Plan scheme which has been closed for some time.
Speaking at a meeting with the Minister in Dublin this week, Richard Kennedy said, “We have been in discussions with her Department for the past 18 months, with a deal yet to be finalised. We must have a package of measures in the forthcoming Budget which will see the re-opening of the NPWS farm plan scheme, which has been closed since 2010”.
“While a final agreement with the Department is close, the main issue for Minister Madigan is a meaningful compensation scheme for farmers affected by designations. The Minister must deliver on this crucial issue, as farmers with designated land throughout the country are being denied their rights to maximise the potential of their land, due to the severe farming and developmental restrictions imposed on them,” he said.
13.6% of the land is designated as either SAC (Special Areas of Conservation) or SPA (Special Protection Areas), impacting around 35,000 farmers. The farming and development restrictions devalue their property and leads to income loss and this land grab is not acceptable to farmers and landowners throughout the country.
IFA SAC Project Team Chairman Padraic Joyce pointed out that there has been some progress made in the talks on conciliation and arbitration to determine losses; the principle of payment for the provision of ecosystem services; a claims process where a farmer is refused consent to carry out activities on their land; and a commitment to conclude the Hen Harrier threat response plan.
Many of these issues have been dragging on for 18 months, since talks commenced on a new agreement on procedures and compensation arrangements for farmers with designated land. However, the Minister must now get these issues over the line and farmers need a commitment that the Budget will deliver a scheme worth €10m.
Padraic Joyce said that these discussions will mean very little if the Minister does not deliver a proper compensation scheme as part of the next Budget.