Source: An Taisce
An Taisce is seeking a response from Minister Madigan on this exposure of systemic policy failure in the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht in relation to climate action and peatland protection, in light of the climate and biodiversity loss emergencies.
A planning application lodged in the name of Minister Madigan, with the advice of RPS Consultants, has been refused permission by An Bord Pleanála. (Kildare Co Co reference 18/1280, An Board Pleanála reference 303503). The application was for cutting of domestic peat on a 4.6 hectare area at Coolree Bog, Blackwood, Robertsown Co Kildare, as part of a programme of new peat cutting sites under the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DCHG) Cessation of Turf Cutting Scheme for ecologically designated raised bogs. This scheme was introduced after the initiation of legal proceedings by the European Commission to secure the end of destructive domestic peat extraction in the small land area of internationally important raised bogs remaining in Ireland and designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the EU Habitats Directive.
Since the scheme was proposed and initiated, An Taisce has consistently argued that the appropriate compensation for peat-fuel-dependent households who were required to cease use of their peat supply cutting plots in SACs was the provision of deep insulation retrofitting and installation of renewably sourced electric heat pumps. Instead, the Department initiated an ill-advised financial compensation scheme, and the provision of new peat cutting plots for those not accepting the payment.
An Taisce, through its representation on the Peatlands Council, has consistently advised the Department against creating new turf cutting plots, as to do so conflicts with Ireland’s climate action obligations.
This has been confirmed by An Bord Pleanála in the grounds stated in refusing the Co Kildare relocation plan on the basis of:
“The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (underpinned by the National Mitigation Plan (July 2017) and the National Planning Framework (February 2018) with an overarching national objective to achieve transition to a low-carbon energy system.”
The refusal also gave as grounds Minister Madigan’s own Department’s National Peatlands Strategy (2015):
“The National Peatlands Strategy (2015) which seeks to guide the Government’s approach to peatlands management and conservation and the subsequent National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan, 2017-2022 which seeks to achieve a sustainable balance between traditional turf-cutting rights and legally binding conservation objectives.”
In addition, the Board upheld Kildare County Council’s refusal of the initial application as contravening the policies of the Kildare County Development Plan 2017-2023 for ensuring the protection and conservation of bogland habitats and bog landscapes. They stated: ”Future development should seek to conserve cutaway bogs and maximise their potential for wildlife, biodiversity, conservation and amenity in the first instance.”
The decision comes after the refusal by An Bord Pleanála of permission for the continuation of peat extraction for electricity generation at the Shannonbridge, Co Offaly power plant in July 2019, reflecting a welcome new emphasis by the Board on climate action.
An Taisce Advocacy Officer, Ian Lumley, has stated in response to the Co Kildare peat cutting refusal:
“A complete review of the function and competence of the Heritage section of Minister Madigan’s Department in relation to Climate Action and biodiversity protection is now required.”
Phoebe Duvall, An Taisce’s Planning and Environmental Policy Officer, stated :
“The refusal of the Minister’s planning application confirms the multiple failures of the Heritage section of the Department in climate action, in its own published policy for peatlands, and in its core remit for biodiversity protection.”
An Taisce has written to the Minister  advising the following:
- The abandonment of any further new peat relocation cutting schemes;
- a review of the entire Heritage section of her Department’s legal, technical, and professional advice, both internal and in the use of external consultants; and
- a review of the adequacy of the DCHG Peatlands Strategy commitment to integrating climate action with peatland protection on a national basis.
Ian Lumley, An Taisce Advocacy Officer
Telephone: 083 153 2384