Proposed new land designations outlined under the EU Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy could decimate rural Ireland if implemented, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
Under the proposals, the amount of land in Ireland classified as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protected Areas (SPA) would increase from 13% to 30%.
Commenting on the matter, the representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency said: “As well as this, the strategy proposes the introduction of a new designation named Strictly Protected Areas. The strategy outlines that member states would be required to ensure that 10% of land would come under this designation.
“If lands fell under this classification, it would reduce the level of human activity allowed in these areas to practically zero.
“Planning permission for homes or farm developments would practically be impossible to secure. Improvements to roads or other infrastructure would be delayed and difficult to deliver.
“As well as this, there is no guarantee that the amount of land in Ireland classed as Strictly Protected would be capped at 10% – as it might have to carry a higher burden to bring the overall percentage across the EU up.
“This could effectively turn swathes of rural Ireland into deserted theme parks, given our high percentage of peatlands compared to our countries in mainland Europe.
“Liaising with the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) on the matter, we will endeavour that this doesn’t come to pass.”
Continuing, Fitzmaurice said: “Meanwhile, under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) concerns need to be raised regarding the wording of the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) – which farmers must comply with to be eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme.
“I support the INHFA’s recommendation that the wording of GAEC 2 – which currently reads as ‘the appropriate protection of wetlands and peatlands’ – needs to be changed.
“When referring to grassland, maintenance is the key word used. There is a significant difference between maintenance and appropriate protection.
“The problem with appropriate protection is that farmers will have deliver on every measure imaginable just to be eligible for a BPS payment. Thus leaving no room for farmers to enter an environmental scheme – so on an economic level, these farmers would be disadvantaged by these measures.
“Meanwhile, those farming areas of drained peatland could be forced to raise the water table on these lands in order to be eligible for them to be eligible for a BPS payment.
“This would have a massive impact for countless farmers, particularly those located in counties along the western seaboard and parts of the midlands,” he concluded.
Michael Fitzmaurice TD 086-1914565