The group, representing a group of environmental organisations, submitted calls to the Department of Agriculture’s public consultation on the future of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations, which specify where screening is required for operations on farms.
The consultation is part of the Government’s review of environmental impact regulations currently applicable to three different types of farm operations, including redevelopment of rural landholdings, removal of field boundaries or reclamation of land, intensive cultivation of uncultivated land or semi-natural areas, and drainage works on land used for agriculture.
In their submission, the Environment Pillar said it is critical to significantly tighten regulations and fully implement monitoring and enforcement processes to fully assess environmental impact and ensure environmental protection.
With regard to fence removal, it has called for the elimination of the screening threshold, instead requiring screening regardless of the length of fence removal.
Currently, screening is not required where the length of fence to be removed is less than 500 meters or the field size after fence removal is less than five hectares.
Removing this threshold will help ensure the protection of the connected hedger network is in a favorable position, the group said. However, if it is considered impossible to avoid the limit for screening, the limit should be reduced to an ecologically aligned limit within 10-50 m.
The environmental pillar also called for the regulations to be amended to provide for an approval process for drainage projects to ensure they are assessed against the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
It accepts network member Ann Tays’s recommendation that the same limits that exist for wetland drainage under planning regulations should be applied to drainage on agricultural land. This requires any area larger than 0.1 hectare to be screened by an expert body.
Meanwhile, the group also demanded a downward revision of the existing five-hectare threshold for mandatory screening of activities related to the intensity of semi-natural areas.
It advocates that all areas hosting semi-natural habitats or areas with a high potential for hosting semi-natural and high nature value agricultural land should be subject to a mandatory environmental impact assessment.