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Northern Ireland launches online land consent service


New website guides users through process to apply for permissions to carry out activities in special areas

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has launched an online service for operations and activities requiring consent in Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs).

NIEA, which is part of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, said the service will make consent applications more straightforward.

The agency designates ASSIs due to their special flora, fauna, or geological features. When an area has been designated an ASSI, the citation has a ‘schedule’ which lists activities that would require consent from NIEA. These could include changing of grazing patterns, felling trees or digging of ditches - any activity likely to damage the flora, fauna or other features.

Under the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002, land owners and occupiers, as well as land managers (including Government bodies), who wish to carry out these activities, known as notifiable operations, in ASSIs require permission from NIEA.

The online form guides users through the process, with a drop-down list of ASSIs to select from and advice on what supplementary information needs to be submitted along with the application.

Map link

The service is linked into NIEA’s Natural Environment Map Viewer, whereby applicants can easily generate maps, ‘redline’ the area where activity will be carried out and attach it to the application form.

Head of the NIEA David Small said: “This online service is a positive step towards simplifying the process for the applicant, saving time and effort. It will also make the process more accessible whilst improving compliance and protecting our special natural heritage.”

Northern Ireland has 392 ASSIs covering a land mass of 110,000 hectares, 7.7% of its total.

Image from Northern Ireland Executive, Open Government Licence v3.0

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