Legislation committee update

Access to the countryside
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As summer holidays draw to an end, children return to school and everyone returns to their normal routines, we may notice the countryside quieter with less recreational traffic and people.

Over the summertime the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) had productive meetings with several councils on access.

The UFU’s position on access is: “Paths across farmland in Northern Ireland (NI) allow the public to benefit from the beauty of the countryside.

County Fermanagh countryside. Picture: Cliff DonaldsonCounty Fermanagh countryside. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
County Fermanagh countryside. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

“Many local landowners and farmers have signed up to allow walkers to enjoy the NI landscape.

“Livestock worrying, litter, fly-tipping, disease risks, safety issues and liability are all issues that farmers have concerns around when access to farmland is proposed.

“Access to the considerable area of publicly owned land in rural areas should be fully exploited before pursuing access onto private land.

“Much of this public land is underused.

“The UFU is supportive of agreed and organised access to private farmland if local landowners are in full agreement and landowners are indemnified against litigation.”

In particular, the UFU had numerous meetings with Causeway Coast and Glens Council coast and countryside team, and council directors, on the proposed Ballymoney to Ballycastle greenway.

Landowners that may be affected by the route, should have received a letter requesting them to contact the council to relay their feedback on having a greenway through their land.

The UFU strongly encourage landowners to engage with the council, failure to do so will leave landowners in a susceptible position.

The UFU also had a positive meeting with Mid and East Antrim on their engagement with landowners on the topic of access.

Cost of living

crime warning

The NFU Mutual 2022 rural crime report found that rural theft cost NI an estimated £1.7million 2021, down 18.7 percent from 2020.

Despite the decrease, with the cost-of-living crisis ongoing, the UFU is encouraging farmers to consider their farm security with record high prices for diesel and heating oil. NFU Mutual claims data from the first half of this year indicates the frequency and cost of fuel theft claims have more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021 in the Great Britain.

Fortunately, this has not yet become an issue in NI.

However, in a poll of the rural community by NFU Mutual, almost half of respondents (49 percent) said that fuel theft was now their greatest crime concern.

To protect fuel from theft, use CCTV cameras and lights to deter thieves. Report any suspicious behaviour to the PSNI on 101 and alert your neighbours.