Bord na Móna’s lands extend to approximately 80,000 hectares and are located mainly in the Irish midlands. They have been primarily used for peat harvesting for energy and for horticulture growing media. This vast land resource is characterised by fragmentation, with over 130 individual bogs, many of which are comprised of numerous individual land parcels.
Bord na Móna is currently considering the most appropriate and sustainable use of the landholding and has established an in-house land use review system. This is based on the company’s geographical information system. In considering the potential of these lands Bord na Móna takes the following factors into account:
- The nature of the cutaway bog, including future drainage options, and the underlying soil types.
- Location and proximity to infrastructure, such as motorways, railways, electricity and gas grids as well as urban areas. Proximity to such facilities gives some cutaway bogs a relative advantage in terms of future land uses over other more remote areas.
- Timescale – whilst the peat resource could be harvested for a further 30 years or more, actual production will depend on market demand.
- National economic interest – the objective of Bord na Móna is to balance and optimise the commercial, social, and environmental value of the land bank.
- The potential of the land holding to meet national and regional needs. For example the Water Supply Project could help meet the increasing need for water supplies in the Dublin and Midland regions. Other potential needs that may be addressed include wind energy, tourism and recreation.
- Future land uses must conform to all relevant environmental, planning and nature conservation legislation.
- In addition to the wider national and regional issues, regard must be had to local considerations. These include:
– Recreation and amenity purposes
– Boundary management and trespass issues
– Political and employment issues
Future Land Use
Over one-fifth of the landholding is already committed to future uses that include forestry (land leased to Coillte), tourism and amenity (e.g. Lough Boora Discovery Park), industry and infrastructure, aggregate production, water storage and wind energy. In addition, some bogs have been conserved for their high biodiversity value.
Some of the land bank will have potential for commercially beneficial uses. This potential is greatest at locations where the land bank coincides with major infrastructure, such as motorways and the electricity grid. About 9% of the landbank is already committed to wind energy use and this could grow to one-third or higher, depending on national and European market demand and national energy policy. For example, there may be opportunities to export electricity from ‘clean energy hubs’ in the midlands to the UK and European markets.
For economic as well as technical reasons, it is unlikely that forestry and agriculture will account for more than 10 – 15% of the total land bank and it is currently estimated that a further 7% may be appropriate for tourism and amenity uses including further development of the existing Lough Boora Discovery Park.
Biodiversity is important in relation to all peatlands and provides a contribution to wealth and health through ecosystem services. It consequently has economic as well as environmental value. It is currently estimated that about 25% of the Bord na Móna land bank will eventually be wetlands or other areas with a high value for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
It is the intention of Bord na Móna to continuously assess and evaluate the potential of the company’s land bank, using the land use review system. The assessment will help prepare a set of knowledge-based management plans for the various areas of peatland. These plans will also inform the cutaway bog rehabilitation programme. The policy of Bord na Móna is not to open up any undrained new bogs for peat production. Lands identified as having high biodiversity value and/or priority habitats will be reserved for these purposes. Generally, cutaway bogs that flood naturally will be permitted to flood unless there is a clear environmental and/or economic case to maintain pumped drainage.