Lisadell judgement shows need to overhaul land access laws - Dowds

11 November 2013

Statement by Robert Dowds TD

Today's Supreme Court judgment which found, with one exception, that there are no public rights of way across the Lisadell Estate, further underlines the urgent need to overhaul Ireland's land access laws.

In June of this year, I introduced a Bill to the Dáil which sought to create a balance between the rights of the public to go walking and the rights of landowners. The Bill will be debated by the Oireachtas Environment Committee in the new year.

I introduced the Access to the Countryside Bill because Ireland has the most restrictive land access laws in Europe, and there is huge potential for job creation and tourist revenue if we reform our land access laws. Our neighbours in Scotland reformed their land access laws a decade ago and are now earning nearly £1.4 billion every year from nature-based tourism. Ireland has as much to offer in terms of scenery and nature as Scotland does, but we are losing out because our land access laws are so restrictive.

Today's Supreme Court judgement shows that our land access laws are completely outdated, badly need to be overhauled and are costing us jobs. Lisadell House had attracted thousands of tourists to the local Sligo economy, supporting many jobs. As access to Lisadell is now forbidden, those visitors are going to go elsewhere, and that is going to cost jobs in the local economy. There are many other examples across the country of our land access laws costing jobs in rural areas, and it is high time our land access laws were overhauled.

The Bill I introduced seeks to give members of the public increased access to beautiful and scenic areas of the countryside, which are currently inaccessible. By encouraging more people to go walking in the countryside, it aims to improve public health and create jobs in rural areas. It is a conservative approach to land access, which will give county councils the power to designate certain types of land accessible to the public, subject to quite considerable restrictions. Cultivated land, improved or semi-improved grassland and land surrounding a habitable dwelling cannot be designated as access land under the provisions of the bill.

This judgement shows that our land access laws need to be reformed, because it is costing us jobs and tourist revenue. I look forward to the hearings at the Environment Committee in the new year where this issue will be discuss in detail by interested parties.

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