The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has challenged the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s (NPWS) assertion that designations don’t devalue land.

The director general of the NPWS Niall Ó Donnchú told the Irish Farmers Journal recently that he rejected the idea that the State body was party to devaluing land through the designation process.

“We absolutely don’t dictate land values,” he said.

However, INHFA president Vincent Roddy maintains that designations have devalued lands by up to a factor of 10.

He said that land which could expect to get €5,000 to €7,000/ac will, following a designation, see values drop to between €500-€700/ac.

“While these lands may never be sold it is important to recognise this devaluation will be a factor if farmers are trying to secure loans against these lands,” he said.

With regard to the suggestion that there are no plans by the NPWS to designate more land, Roddy pointed to the Nature Restoration Law.

He said that the law “will involve considerably more land, will have a much greater impact in terms of restrictions and compliance, but critically for the NPWS will be much easier to administer as this designation is on the soil type which will already be mapped”.

Ó Donnchú said that the State body is also clarifying the process around activities requiring consent (ARCs) on designated land.

Roddy said that any proposals to improve the current process will always be welcomed but stressed that there is a major difference between clarifying what is there and making significant changes.

“Our position is that we need radical change on these ARCs, a change that must see planning permission for normal farming activities such as fencing removed,” he said.

The INHFA president added that beyond this “we must also ensure that those farmers who went through an unnecessary planning process for fencing and other activities are fully compensated for the expenses they incurred.”