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Doyle publishes external review of the forestry licence approval process

Minister of State Andrew Doyle, T.D., has received the Review of Approval Processes for Afforestation in Ireland.  The review was carried out by Mr James Mackinnon, CBE, former Senior Planner with the Scottish Government and was commissioned by Minister Doyle, following a similar review in Scotland carried out by M. Mackinnon.


The Minister said “The Government has set some ambitious targets for the forestry sector not least in the Climate Action Plan and I commissioned this review to ensure that collectively we are fit for purpose to help deliver these targets. I would like to thank James for his comprehensive report and for delivering it in such a timely fashion. I know that he met with a long list of industry stakeholders, the Environmental Pillar, Department staff and other interest groups during his time in Ireland.   I am grateful for their time and constructive input which will no doubt add import and relevance of these findings.”


Mr Mackinnon was commissioned to examine the process for approving afforestation proposals and the linked issues for other forestry related operations. His remit was to make recommendations on issues identified which would improve the process, taking account of his experience with the Scottish forestry system.


Minister Doyle added “I would encourage all stakeholders to take the time to study this report carefully and I and my Department will do likewise. It contains a number of important recommendations on which we all need to reflect. Implementation of the Plan is now a priority. I propose to publish a detailed implementation plan early in January next after discussions with stakeholders on the Forestry Programme Implementation group”.



Note for Editors


The report is published on the Department’s website at:

Terms of Reference for Review of Approval Process for Afforestation in Ireland



Forest cover in Ireland now stands at 11% from a low of 1% at the turn of the last century. The rate of afforestation has accelerated significantly in the last 30 years. Under the current Forestry Programme 2014 -2020, the average afforestation rates have been 5,500 hectares per year, which is below the target set.   The Government has recently set an annual planting target of 8,000 hectares in its Climate Action Plan 2019. 

In this context, it is timely to undertake a review of the afforestation approval process, to ensure that it is as efficient and effective as possible and meets the needs of all stakeholders. The experience in Scotland, where an analysis of the approval process was conducted and planting levels of 10,000 hectares per year have been achieved, can usefully inform this review.  The review will also consider the approval process for forestry related operations.

The aims of this review are:

  1. To examine the process for approving afforestation proposals and the linked issues for other forestry related operations i.e. forest road works and tree felling.
  2. To make recommendations which will address any issues identified and which will improve the process.

Account should also be taken of lessons learnt from the recent analysis of the Scottish approval process, with reference to areas of similarity and difference between the two systems where relevant (for example average plantation size, ownership structure).

The review will be informed by discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, and all relevant stakeholders including the forestry sector, farming organisations, other State bodies and the Environmental Pillar.