Plan­ning needed to har­vest peat: court

Irish Independent - - Business - Tim Healy

TWO peat ex­trac­tion firms have been re­fused per­mis­sion to ap­peal a sig­nif­i­cant finding that their ac­tiv­i­ties are no longer ex­empt de­vel­op­ment.

The com­pa­nies had claimed the finding would ef­fec­tively bring the in­dus­try to “a stand­still” with im­pli­ca­tions for 11,000 jobs while plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions are put in train.

In a rul­ing yesterday, the High Court’s Mr Jus­tice Charles Meenan re­fused leave to ap­peal his Fe­bru­ary judg­ment uphold­ing An Bord Pleanála’s de­ci­sion the ac­tiv­i­ties are not, af­ter Septem­ber 2012, ex­empt de­vel­op­ment.

The Board de­ci­sion was made in April 2013 af­ter Friends of the Ir­ish En­vi­ron­ment (FIE) queried the de­vel­op­ment sta­tus of the op­er­a­tions. Sep­a­rate pro­ceed­ings were then brought by the af­fected com­pa­nies, Bul­rush Hor­ti­cul­ture, and by West­land Hor­ti­cul­ture, West­meath Peat and Ca­van Peat.

Mr Jus­tice Meenan dis­missed both chal­lenges in a judg­ment which means, from Septem­ber 2012, all com­mer­cial peat har­vest­ing in Ire­land is unau­tho­rised un­less it has plan­ning per­mis­sion.

He found a “sound le­gal ba­sis” for the Board’s de­ci­sion that the firms re­quired an En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact As­sess­ment and Ap­pro­pri­ate As­sess­ment for the works.

Both com­pa­nies sought per­mis­sion to ap­peal but their ap­pli­ca­tions were re­fused by the judge.

He ac­cepted the out­come of the case has “im­por­tant and far-reach­ing” im­pli­ca­tions for the peat har­vest­ing in­dus­try.

He said there can be points of law of ex­cep­tional pub­lic im­por­tance which are not so un­cer­tain as to re­quire a rul­ing from the Court of Ap­peal.

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