DEPARTMENT of Agriculture permission may be needed to continue land reclamation projects which commenced since September 8 — the cutoff point after which farmers must ask officials to screen their plans for land restructuring, conversion of uncultivated or semi-natural areas, or land drainage, if above certain size thresholds.
In a draft guidance document, details are also given of sub-threshold works which must be screened by Department officials, because they may have a significant effect on the environment.
Farmers organisations and other stakeholders have a three-weeks public consultation period, until Friday, October 21, to react to the guidance document. Setting out proposed regulations, it can be read on the www.agriculture.gov.ie website.
The regulations create prosecutable offences with fines of up to €5,000 upon summary conviction.
Screening applications must give details of proposed works, including who will carry out the work.
The Department will let farmers know if they can proceed with intended work, or whether they need to apply for consent (which must be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement or Natura Impact Statement).
Farmers are advised to seek professional advice if an EIS is needed. Scoping opinions from the Department will advise what applications and environmental impact statements should contain.
In making consent decisions, the Department may consult with the public.
Swamps and marshes defined as ‘wetlands’
COUNTY Council planning permission is needed to drain or reclaim a wetland if the area affected exceeds 0.1 hectares, or if the works may affect the environment (for example, extending a drain at the margins of a bog).
The following are regarded as wetlands — lakes, reservoirs and ponds, turloughs, rivers and canals, swamps and marshes, floodplains that are permanently or periodically inundated with water (including callows), peatlands (bogs, wet heath and fens), wet woodlands, caves, cliffs, salt marshes, dune slacks and machairs, transitional waters (such as estuaries and lagoons), and intertidal habitats (to 6m below the lowest spring tide level).