To assess the extent of the private afforestation of land within Natura 2000 SAC Sites in Co. Leitrim and to determine whether correct procedures were followed in respect of Appropriate Assessment under Article 6.3 of the Habitats Directive.
The DAFM PrivateForest2019 dataset was overlaid with the relevant NPWS datasets for Natura 2000 SAC Sites in Co. Leitrim using QGIS. The clipped area that resulted identified a number of areas within the SAC’s which have been afforested since 1996.
An Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) request was submitted to DAFM for copies of the Stage 2 Appropriate Assessments and related Natura Impact Statements for the identified sites. Where no Stage 2 Assessment was carried out I sought records of the Stage 1 Assessment which had been conducted to screen out the development from Appropriate Assessment.
The AIE request returned no records indicating the no Appropriate Assessment, including screening, has been carried out for any of these developments.
PrivateForest2019 ERSI shapefiles provide by DAFM on 14th April 2020
Designated Site Boundary Data was downloaded from https://www.npws.ie/maps-and-data/designated-site-data
10 sites were identified which involved the afforestation land within four SAC’s.
Of these 3 sites were eliminated from this report on the basis that the afforestation occurred before the site was officially designated.
Where an Appropriate Assessment was required under Article 6.3 of the Habitats Directive but was not conducted there is a legal requirement on the Competent Authority to carry out a retrospective assessment.
Until such an assessment has been conducted the afforestation of these lands is in contravention of European Law.
Full details on each site in AIE available on request