Consultation on DAERA appeals coming to end

Ulster Unionist spokesperson on Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs Rosemary Barton MLA, has issued a reminder that the closing date for the DAERA consultation on agriculture based appeals system is Tuesday 17 August.

Mrs Barton said: “For some time I have called on the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to make changes to the Independent Agricultural Appeals process, which is the system employed by the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to review farmer appeals to the department.

“I contend that there is a major gap in the DAERA appeals process whereby if a farmer doesn’t agree with a decision of that Department they can implement an appeal process, the first stage of which is directly back to DAERA, where another member of staff adjudicates, however very few of these are successful. The next stage is to an independent appeal panel.

“It is deeply frustrating for farmers to find they have made a successful case to the independent appeal panel, only to learn that DAERA have over-ruled this and continue to reject the farmer’s application.

“I am not aware of any other Appeals process in Northern Ireland whereby an independent appeals procedure can be overturned by the Department and Minister. It doesn’t matter what recommendation comes from the independent appeal panel, DAERA can still overturn the advice and essentially take their own decision. I have a recent case whereby the independent appeal panel agreed with the case put forward by the farmer, only to then find that DAERA requested ‘further technical assessment’, without the knowledge of the farmer, and I assume the assessment came from within the Department, to again find in favour of DAERA and again this decision is at the farmers’ expense.”

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The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA added in conclusion: “This is an extremely unfair process for the farmer and an unsustainable position for DAERA, which has gone on for far too long, it needs immediate change and I’m pleased that following a question from me the Minister agreed to review the matter.

“Other bodies, like the Planning Appeals Commission for example, do not have their decisions reversed following the opinion of the independent panel, why should appeals by farmers be subject to such discrimination?

“I encourage everyone with an interest in this matter, particularly farmers to respond to the consultation.”