Wednesday, 4 July 2018
Heritage Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
I have listened with considerable interest to the debate and I had not intended taking part in the Chamber, although I have contributed at parliamentary party level. None of us is an expert, although we can indicate that we are until the cows come home. I have had considerable experience of various environmental schemes, from REPS to GLAS, over the past 20 years. I have experience of their practicality and of the guidance given by environmental officers.
I reiterate what Deputy Ó Cuív said about the Road Traffic Act 1993. With any issue of road safety, there was always provision for the local authority to ensure a farmer could take measures to ensure a road was safer, while protecting wildlife. When a reputable planner signs off on the need for maintenance along a public road, it has never been challenged by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine if it is written in the plan. It has not been an issue for 20 years and I know people who availed of REPS and GLAS and were allowed to cut hedgerows in their plans, within reason and according to the diktat of the planner, who receives reasonably good advice from the Department. I do not know why we cannot also conserve water through such plans and this should be incentivised.
We spoke about the farmer and the cowboy having to be friends but there have to be practical solutions in the interest of protecting the people who walk or cycle the roads of this country and I would not be satisfied unless I could cut briers and other things for the people who utilise the countryside, as well as for those in cars and lorries. We debate things ad infinitumin this House but I cannot understand how we cannot find practical solutions that are acceptable both to environmentalists and farmers.