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Local sawmills forced to import timber as Laois TD calls for urgent action

Laois TD Brian Stanley has called for urgent to sort out timber supplies.

According to the Sinn Fein TD, sawmills in the county are being forced to import timber rather than harvest timber that is available to them here.

Last week, he visited Mountrath and Coolrain Sawmills, along with Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Agriculture and Forestry, Matt Carthy, to discuss with management the problems they are experiencing regarding timber supplies.

The pair met with Mark Sheeran owner of Mountrath and Coolrain Mills and Declan Hutchinson Manager of Coolrain.

Followng that meeting, Deputy Stanley outlined the problems that are being experienced.

He said: “The timber industry is a very important industry in Laois/Offaly. This is an area where there are not a lot of IDA backed jobs or major industries. It is central to the local economy and creates badly needed employment.

“Unfortunately the industry is experiencing huge problems at the moment with timber supplies.

“We have the ridiculous situation where timber that is ready to be cut in the Slieve Blooms area, just up the road from the sawmill, cannot be harvested.

“This is forcing a situation where some of the supplies at the local sawmills have to be imported from Scotland.

“Difficulties are being experienced by farmers seeking permission to plant trees and the situation is even more difficult regarding harvesting licences. The process of obtaining permission to plant and “Felling’ licences is over bureaucratic.

“There are in the region of 5000 “Felling’ licences held up in the system. Some of these are in the system for a long time.

“We have one case in the Constituency where a man is waiting almost 3 years for a licence to harvest 20 acres of trees.

“This has created a situation where potential growers and farmers are reluctant to get involved in forestry schemes.”

According to Mr Stanley, jobs are on the line if something is not sorted soon.

He said: “If the current situation is not addressed without delay it poses potential risk to jobs and restricts the industry from expanding.

“This is also leading to difficulties with supplies of timber to the construction sector and increasing the price of raw material.

“Sinn Féin is supporting the proposals from the all party Dáil committee to streamline the process.

“At present 3 sets of permissions are required and involves 3 separate processes for planting, thinning and the harvesting and permission to construct access roads to forests.

“There needs to be 1 single streamlined process right through from planting to harvesting so as to give certainty to growers and to simplify the application.

“The working groups established by the Government are little more than talking shops and is just further delaying matters.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.