Designated area farmers being 'treated with contempt'

Tipperary Star reporter

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Pat Rohan, ICMSA

Pat Rohan

Tipperary farmers on designated land, including Hen Harrier areas, are being treated with contempt by the Government and State agencies, according to Pat Rohan, chair of ICMSA’s Farm and Rural Affairs Committee.

He accused them of shifting responsibility from one Department to the other with land effectively sterilised and useless and the farmers losing money on a daily basis as a consequence.

Mr Rohan made his comments following a meeting of the Designated Areas Monitoring Committee.

He said that the Government and its agencies seemed to have settled on a policy that involved designating land while ignoring the rights of the individual landowner and then failing to properly compensate landowners for the losses.

They must either address landowners’ concerns equitably and fairly or they must lift the designation, said Mr Rohan.

He said that that the relevant Government Ministers must address this issue as a matter of urgency on grounds of simple fairness and justice.

He described the outcome of the meeting as “disappointing”.

Meanwhile, IFA SAC Project chairman Padraic Joyce accused the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of reneging on previous commitments on designated SAC and SPA areas by refusing to put in place a proper compensation scheme for farmers with designated land and failing to take into account the devaluation of land as a result of designation.

Speaking after the same meeting, he pointed specifically to the Hen Harrier areas where land has been sterilised and is been devalued without a proper compensation scheme. Forestry as an option for farmers with this land has been closed off for the past six years and promises made under the Threat Response plan have not been delivered upon. The locally led scheme Hen Harrier scheme appears to have hit the rocks and promises made by the Government for a meaningful scheme have not been delivered on.

IFA also raised concerns in relation to the Shannon Callows, commonages and other designations where restrictions are imposed. In relation to fencing of land in designated areas, IFA raised the extra cost imposed on farmers where planning and EIA assessment add to the burden on the low income sector of farming.

In relation to flood alleviation works on designated rivers, a commitment was given that the NPWS would not object to work being carried where the public good is at stake.

Mr Joyce said Heritage Minister, Heather Humphreys must engage on the problems of designated land and show support to landowners whose income and property values are effected by designations.

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said it is high time that Minister Humphreys faces up to the issues around compensation for designation.

"farmers in designated areas are being taken for fools when they are lectured to about how GLAS is for them when in fact the payment ceilings for GLAS result in designated farmers getting very limited net compensation from their designation," he said.

Mr Sherlock called on Minister Humphreys to go the Cabinet to seek an allocation of funding for a new NPWS scheme in line with previous schemes that were in place before 2010.