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Legal requirements for afforestation

Brief overview of the legal requirements for afforestation

What is a forest

Forest land is defined as land under trees with a minimum area of 0.1 hectare and tree crown cover of more than 20% of the total area (or the potential to achieve this cover at maturity).

A tree means a free-standing, woody perennial plant whose species has the potential to have a more or less definite crown and be capable of reaching a minimum height of five metres at maturity and includes a sapling and the species of birch and hazel.

The Forestry Act 2014 applies to all such areas. This means that an Afforestation Licence is required for all afforestation projects where the area involved is greater than 0.10 hectares (approximately 0.25 acres). 

Application procedure

All afforestation projects must obtain prior written approval from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) termed 'Technical Approval'. Once a 'Technical Approval' has been granted; a supplementary 'Financial Approval' is required for grant-aided projects. This financial approval must be obtained before work can commence.

Obtaining Technical Approval

A technical approval confirms that the proposed forest detailed in the application complies with the silvicultural and environmental requirements. This approval provides permission to plant all or part of the areas specified and the areas planted meet scheme requirements. 

An application for Technical Approval must be made by the applicant and a registered forester (see List of Registered Foresters, PDF). It takes time for the application to be assessed.

Note:

  • Applicants for technical approval must be the owner, lease holder or joint manager of the land at the time of the application (exceptions where owner is deceased or owner consents in writing).
  • Applicants must be over 18 years of age and hold a Personal Pubic Service Number (PPSN). Companies must provide their company registration number (CRO).

Appropriate assessment procedures

When DAFM receives an application for technical approval, it carries out 'screening' to assess if there is a possibility of the proposed forestry project having an effect, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects on a Natura site within a 15-km radius.

Natura sites include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). They are designated to afford protection to the most vulnerable habitats and species in Ireland.

DAFM can only approve a forestry-related application where it deems at screening stage that there is no possibility of an effect on any Natura site, or (at appropriate assessment stage, if required) that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of any Natura site.

You can find further details on the appropriate assessment procedures here. 

Site Notices

All applications submitted for technical approval, must have a Site Notice appropriately positioned on the site.

The Site Notice must be erected before making the application, be maintained in position for at least five weeks from the date of publication by the Minister on the DAFM website and the Forestry Licence Viewer (FLV) of the notice of application and must be renewed or replaced if it is removed or becomes defaced or illegible within that period.

Consultation procedures

All applications submitted for technical approval require public consultation:

  1. A 30-day consultation period will commence on receipt of the licence application. Applications are free to view on the DAFM Forestry Licence Viewer. Any member of the public can make a submission within 30 days of publication of the licence application. A fee of €20 for a submission on any application will apply.

  2. A second 30-day consultation period will commence after receipt of a Natura Impact Statement (NIS) or after an Appropriate Assessment Report is produced by the Department, and relevant documentation will be published on the DAFM Forestry Licence Viewer. If a NIS is submitted with the initial application only one public consultation period is required. 

  3. On publication of a licence decision from DAFM, any member of the public can submit an appeal within 14 days to the Forestry Appeals Committee. A fee of €200 for making an appeal applies.

Lists of Appropriate Assessment cases open for consultation are published on the forestry pages of the Department’s website.

Further information: