The Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 was signed into law on 2 October 2020 and commenced on 6 October 2020.
The Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (2020 Act) aims to address the backlog of appeals in respect of forestry activity that are before the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the licensing authority for forestry activity such as felling, afforestation, forest road works and aerial fertilisation of forests.
Under the Forestry Act 2014 and the Agriculture Appeals Act 2001, anyone can appeal the grant of such licences to the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) and those awarded with licences cannot commence work until a decision has been made on the appeal. It has been acknowledged that the current appeals system is inefficient, ineffective and overwhelmed. The 2020 Act amends the Forestry Act 2014 and the Agriculture Appeals Act 2001.
A number of bodies across the forestry and construction industries had collectively raised concerns about the impact of the delays associated with appeals on forestry jobs and on essential timber supplies to the construction industry.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, there have been over 400 appeals against forestry licences granted in 2020. This is in comparison to just 14 appeals in 2017.
The 2020 Act will be welcomed by sawmills across Ireland, as fears had been raised in recent months that sawmillers would be left without supplies due to shortages in available timber caused by the appeals backlog. If the 2020 Act is successful in terms of increasing the supply of domestic timber, it is likely to be welcomed by the construction sector where margins may have been impacted by importing timber from the UK and the wider continent.
A no-deal Brexit is still a possibility, so contractors will be eager to rely increasingly on domestic produce in order to ease the impact of regulatory divergence and tariffs on their overall supplies.
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