Irwin concern as DAERA puts brakes on farm development

Newry and Armagh DUP assemblyman, William Irwin MLA, has said the decision by DAERA to suspend the use of published standing ammonia advice when considering responses to planning applications, has “put the brakes” on farm improvements.
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Mr Irwin said a number of farmers had been in contact with him in the planning stages of improvements and expansions, who have no idea when progress can be made and a when a decision can be taken on their planning application.

Mr Irwin further highlighted that, in some instances, important government grant aid for farm projects was also being put at risk.

Mr Irwin said: “Firstly I have requested a meeting with the DAERA Permanent Secretary on this issue as I am deeply dissatisfied with this decision taken by DAERA and especially so given no consultation was undertaken prior to the decision. This is in my opinion a knee jerk reaction by DAERA to issues raised by the Office of Environmental Protection.

William Irwin MLA.William Irwin MLA.
William Irwin MLA.

“What this has effectively done is grind current on-farm planning applications to a halt and obviously put subsequent applicants off from submitting an application given the costly delays and uncertainty created by this decision. That is bad news for our agri-food industry which is one of Northern Ireland’s most important economic drivers.”

Mr Irwin explained: “What is also concerning is the fact that I am aware of a number of individual farmers who have grant approvals in place for important business expansion projects but which rely on planning permission as a key part of the grant process. With time running out on accessing this vital funding, the planning delay is really adding significant stress and worry to these individuals.”

He continued: “It is very difficult for farmers to get these vital on farm projects off the ground, given the costs associated with planning and the fact that the goal posts keep being moved by DAERA as a key consultee in the planning process. This leaves local councils unable to progress applications in a timely manner which draws its own criticism in that regard.”

“The fact that NIEA will now being working on the provision of case-by-case and site-specific advice to Council planning departments, is most unwelcome news and effectively puts the brakes on farm projects. This is counterproductive especially given the fact that these improvements are for the bettering of the environment. It is somewhat ironic that DAERA through its own Farm Business Improvement Scheme initiative is being denied improvement by one of its own internal agencies.

“I will be making my views clear to officials when I meet with them in the near future,” Mr Irwin concluded.