Regional Development Minister, Michelle McIlveen has sought Executive agreement on the introduction of a Land Acquisition and Compensation Bill.
The minister is seeking accelerated passage for the Bill which would bring compensation levels for landowners in Northern Ireland affected by compulsory land purchase on a par with England and Wales.
The news has been welcomed by representatives of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) who have been lobbying for the introduction of such legislation for some time.
The minister said: “There is clearly an anomaly in respect of compensation payments for landowners whose land is vested, usually as a result of major road schemes. In England and Wales, landowners receive up to an additional 10 percent top up payment as compensation for the loss of their land but this does not apply here.
“With the prospect of two major road schemes starting construction this year, namely the A5 and the A6, it is only fair that the many landowners who will be impacted are compensated fairly.”
Seeking accelerated passage of the Bill will enable it to be debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly with the prospect of it being introduced before the summer this year.
Concluding the Minister said: “There will be financial implications for some departments as a result of this Bill, with my own Department being most affected. However, it cannot be right for people in Northern Ireland not to enjoy the same entitlements as those enjoyed by citizens in England and Wales.”
The UFU has been pressing for this for some time, on grounds that when it comes to road schemes and other developments there is a need for recognition that farmers are not willing sellers, and as such need to receive a premium on market value.
UFU deputy president, Barclay Bell, said the compulsory acquisition of land was always a difficult issue.
“Our approach has been to secure the best possible compensation for the farmers involved. But we are acutely aware that they face disruption to their businesses and under current arrangements this is not recognised, which is the case elsewhere,” said Mr Bell.
He added that the UFU needed to see the detail of what minister, Michelle McIlveen, was proposing to take to the Executive and to ensure that farmers affected by future road schemes such as the imminent A6 scheme can benefit from this.
He added: “However given that we have been lobbying for this change I am hopeful what has been proposed will finally deliver fair treatment for farmers who lose out so that the rest of us can gain from a better rural road network.”