It is the Irish Green Party spokesman for planning and local government, Mr. Steven Matthews TD who launched this bill 2023 eagerly awaited by environmentalists. This law will strengthen the protection of trees in urban areas and allow communities to designate local sites as an important area of biodiversity.
Mr. Matthews who spoke on the new designations of nature site in the bill recalled that walking in parks and green spaces was considered by many as a lifeline
“And the only thing that kept us sane was during the pandemic. We rediscovered the importance of nature locally. This bill puts the power back in the hands of local communities, to decide what which is important locally, so that we do not lose these precious sites,” he said in a press release published on the party’s website.

The spokesperson for Green Party Ireland showed that any member of the community may be able to request that their local council protect a certain local natural site.
“The council can then prohibit the deliberate destruction of the site and landowners may have to enter into an agreement with the planning authority to manage the site.”

According to the press release, the overarching goal of this bill is to protect more spaces and features that are important to people and nature, without impeding the development of much-needed local housing and infrastructure. This bill does so by:

  • Introduce “locally important ecological sites”, which communities can designate to protect important local natural areas.
  • Prioritize the treatment and management of trees rather than felling. Where trees are to be felled, there will be an obligation to replant and an additional obligation for public bodies to provide an arborist’s report.
  • Modification of the tree preservation order process. Stakeholders suggest that one of the main reasons for the low uptake of the current tree preservation order process is that the order itself represents an “all or nothing” decision; once granted, it is very difficult to withdraw it, which encourages more caution in granting it. People will be allowed to appeal decisions where there has been a refusal to allow work involving the tree.

According to Steven Matthews, this bill will have to give elected officials and local authorities the means to protect trees in urban areas, in towns and villages, and also to introduce a new form of protection, namely to identify sites in these areas that everyone knows are locally important for biodiversity. These sites will be called “locally important for ecology”, LIFE, sites.

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