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Down Tools Threat To Industry As Courts To Rule On Industrial Peat Extraction

category national | environment | press release author Sunday July 21, 2019 20:36author by foie - Friends of the Irish Environment Report this post to the editors

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 21st July 2019

JUDGEMENTS FROM HIGH COURT AND SUPREME COURT ON INDUSTRIAL PEAT EXTRACTION DUE THIS WEEK.

Cases that originated in a 2013 ruling by An Bord Pleanala that industrial peat extraction requires planning permission have led to two judgements due this week in Ireland’s highest courts that may result in temporary closure of the industry.

The environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] originally referred three test cases of industrial peat extraction to An Bord Pleanala [ABP], the planning appeals board, in 2010, involving well-known companies like Westland, Bullrush, and Harte Peat. The peat is used for fuel, horticulture, mushroom growing, animal bedding, and as an industrial sorbent. None of the sites of up to 180 hectares in extent had planning permission from the local authority or a licence from the EPA.

PRESS RELEASE
21 JULY 2019
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DOWN TOOLS THREAT TO INDUSTRY AS COURTS TO RULE ON INDUSTRIAL PEAT EXTRACTION

JUDGEMENTS FROM HIGH COURT AND SUPREME COURT ON INDUSTRIAL PEAT EXTRACTION DUE THIS WEEK.

Cases that originated in a 2013 ruling by An Bord Pleanala that industrial peat extraction requires planning permission have led to two judgements due this week in Ireland’s highest courts that may result in temporary closure of the industry.

The environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] originally referred three test cases of industrial peat extraction to An Bord Pleanala [ABP], the planning appeals board, in 2010, involving well-known companies like Westland, Bullrush, and Harte Peat. The peat is used for fuel, horticulture, mushroom growing, animal bedding, and as an industrial sorbent. None of the sites of up to 180 hectares in extent had planning permission from the local authority or a licence from the EPA.

SATELLITE SURVEY
FIE based its cases on a satellite survey produced for them by University College Cork followed by a series of site visits. A 2013 local authority Survey to ground truth the results was coordinated by the Department of the Environment across 20 counties. It confirmed the existence of a large number of unauthorised operations of which the Local Authorities had no previous records.

A presentation to the EU Petitions Committee at the time by FIE identified the uncontrolled extraction of peat in Ireland as the largest unauthorized land use in Europe. No Irish commercial peat extraction has ever been subject to the Environmental Impact Assessment required under this 30 year old EU Directive, including that of Bord na Mona. A 1996 case against Ireland by the European Commission was settled in 2005 when the Planning Acts were amended to include industrial peat extraction.

PLANNING APPEALS BOARD RULINGS
While ABP confirmed two of the original FIE cases required permission in their 2013 rulings, these were challenged in the Courts over five years by the operators. The final appeal was denied in December 2018.

However, in the third test case the Board refused to require planning permission as the identities of all the owners could not be determined. According to the Board, this denied the owners their constitutional rights. The High Court confirmed that the decision lay within the discretion of the Board and refused an application for an appeal. However, a ‘leapfrog’ appeal to the Supreme Court was accepted in order to examine, in the words of the Supreme Court, the ‘judicial deference’ shown by the High Court to the Board. This judgment is due in the Supreme Court on Friday at 10 am.

STATUTORY INSTRUMENT CHALLENGED
The State’s response to the upholding of An Bord Pleanala’s requirement for planning permission by the High Court was to exempt peat extraction from planning by the means of a Statutory Instrument signed into law by Ministers Richard Bruton and Eoin Murphy in January 2019. Control is to be ‘streamlined’ through a licence from the EPA, with up to 3 years for operators to apply for licences and no time limit on reaching a decision.

FIE’s response was to seek a stay on the operation of the Statutory Instruments as they argue these legal instruments could only be used to implement European legislation, not to exempt activities from the EIA Directive for any period of time as FIE says this legislation does. FIE has also argued that the rights of citizens to challenge planning decisions in the Courts will also be diminished, as no such rights exist in EPA licencing legislation.

High Court Justice Garrett Simons, who heard FIE’s application at a sitting of the High Court in Cork last week, will deliver judgment at 10.30 on Tuesday as to the validity of the Statutory Instruments.

During the hearing in the High Court last week, it was stated that if the Courts strike down the Statutory Instrument exempting peat extraction from planning controls all works on these bogs will be unauthorized and operators must down tools or operate illegally.

FIE is represented by O’Connell Clarke, Solicitors, and barristers James Devlin SC Oisin Collins BL and Margaret Heavey BL.

SAVE OUR BOGS VIDEO [3 minutes]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUX6d90Y2ag

Further Information
Tony Lowes, Friends of the Irish Environment 353 (0)87 2176316
Daithí Ó hÉalaithe (Irish language) +353 (0)87 6178852

Copyright © 2019 Friends of the Irish Environment, All rights reserved.
Press Release

Our mailing address is:
Friends of the Irish Environment
Kilcatherine
Eyeries, Cork P75 CX53
Ireland

Related Link: https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17678-down-tools-threat-to-industry-as-courts-to-rule-on-industrial-p...ction
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