To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if in view of the positive move in de-designating raised bogs Natural Heritage Area’s, if he will conceive of a situation where other areas of NHA’s could be reviewed on the request of land owners in a similar scientific basis; if on request of a local authority considering the construction of road infrastructure a review could be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Seán Kyne.
R E P L Y:
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Mr Jimmy Deenihan, T.D.)
The recently published Review of Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) sets out a significant reconfiguration of the raised bog NHA network. The review was underpinned by a detailed scientific study which analysed the ecological value and restoration potential of each site. The review succeeded in ensuring that the conservation value of the NHA network is enhanced following the reconfiguration while significantly reducing impacts on active turf-cutters. The review was undertaken in the context of a commitment in the Programme for Government and in ensuring compliance with EU law relating to turf extraction within raised bog Special Areas of Conservation and NHAs. It will be necessary to bring forward legislative change to allow for the de-designation of NHAs as part of this re-configuration.
While I have no plans to undertake a more general review of NHAs at this time, the Wildlife Acts currently provide for the revocation of a Natural Heritage Area Order where the site no longer retains its scientific value.
The Wildlife Acts, the Roads Acts and the Planning and Development Acts provide for the protection of Natural Heritage Areas, the process through which projects, including roads projects are to be assessed, and the circumstances in which projects that affect NHAs may be consented to.