Coillte may be headed for a collision course with neighbouring landowners over rights of way.
The forestry semi-state company has written to hundreds of landowners informing them that it wants to legally establish rights of way through their lands to Coillte forestry land.
These landowners will soon receive correspondence from the Property Registration Authority of Ireland (PRAI) to see if they have any objections to the requested registration of the right of way.
The early indications are that many will object, which could push the process past the 30 November expiration of the current laws.
“When Coillte establishes a right of way, it seems to me it’s open access,” one farmer told the Irish Farmers Journal. He has been contacted by letter to inform him an application has been made to register a right of way to a Coillte-owned forestry through his land.
“Forestry means deer, and a locked gate is necessary to keep them out of grass fields. That goes out the window, in my experience, when Coillte is accessing a right of way. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to have a key, with all the problems that can bring, from animals breaking in or out to the increased danger of a woodland fire.”
Another big issue is the change of use.
This potentially leaves Coillte with big problems
“The right of way is along a mud track. Is that going to be transformed into a forestry road for felling equipment and artic lorries?” he asked.
In some cases, where woodland has been growing with little need for management, use of a right of way into a plantation has been used only rarely in recent years. This potentially leaves Coillte with big problems, because such an unregistered right of way could lapse under the new laws scheduled to come into effect on 1 December next.
Reports are circulating that Coillte has charged farmers for rights of way through Coillte forestry into private forestry, in some cases tens of thousands.
I might agree to a right of way, if they make it worth my while
This is only serving to stiffen landowners’ backs in terms of co-operating with Coillte’s attempts to rush through the legal establishment of rights of way in their favour.
One farmer suggested he might adopt Coillte’s tactics. “I might agree to a right of way, if they make it worth my while,” he said.
Vincent Nally, the IFA’s forestry chair, said that issues of genuine concern are arising in relation to rights of way to and through plantations.
An extension is required to work through these complex issues
Coillte, private plantation owners and landowners through whose property rights of way have been established are all potentially affected.
“This is further evidence that the 1 December introduction of the new legislation governing rights of way is coming too soon” he said.
“An extension is required to work through these complex issues.”