The State has been accused of purchasing mountain and bog lands at bargain basement prices after devaluing these same properties through environmental designations.
The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) claimed that recent purchases of lands by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) illustrated the extent to which the price of upland and bog had been slashed as a result of designations.
The INHFA comments follow on from the recent purchase by the NPWS of 2,500ac in the Cuilcagh Mountains of Cavan. The NPWS also bought a 1,500ac mountain farm in Wicklow last week.
While the NPWS is understood to have paid close to €1m or €600 to €700/ac for the Wicklow hill farm, the INHFA claimed that some of its members have been offered as low as €400 to €500/ac by State bodies for designated ground.
“We have major concern[s] that the State, through the NPWS, continue[s] to buy land at a knock-down price,” said INHFA president Vincent Roddy.
He said hill farmers were particularly frustrated that Government agencies appeared to be taking advantage of the reduced price of designated land, even though it was the State’s actions in designating the ground that effectively slashed the market value of such holdings.
“What is happening with regard to designated lands is akin to me going into someone's house and wrecking it; and coming back a few weeks later offering to buy it, but at a fraction of the market value and justifying that by saying the house is now a wreck,” Roddy said.
“Farmers and landowners with designated lands have for years been restricted in what they can do with the land, while also enduring additional costs pertaining to these designations,” he maintained.
“These two issues have contributed to a significant reduction in profits and left some farmers and landowners in the difficult position of having to sell the land as they can’t return a profit,” Roddy pointed out.
“Insult is now being added to injury as the State takes advantage of those who it has left in this vulnerable position by buying the land at a knock-down price,” he said.
“[The] INHFA has outlined proposals to address this issue that involves the State funding the difference between the market price of these lands - if they were not designated - and the price currently being obtained by those selling the land,” Roddy explained.
This fund should cover sales to both the State and private actors, he added.