UFU challenges planning permission questions

UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson
UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is challenging part of an audit into RHI boiler use that asks farmers to state if they had planning permission for buildings or housing linked to boilers.

UFU deputy president Ivor Ferguson said they have been informed that Ricardo, who are undertaking the inspection programme, are, in some instances seeking proof of planning permission not just in relation to boiler houses, but also the on-farm buildings.

Mr Ferguson pointed out that the 1993 Northern Ireland Planning Development Order clearly states that under ‘Permitted Development,’ farmers can build sheds and buildings without the need for such permission. Thousands of sheds have been built over generations on the back of this legislation.

The UFU says it has examined both the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme Regulations (NI 2012) and the DETI-issued Non-Domestic RHI Guidance notes. The only place where there is any mention of a planning permission requirement is under Pre-Accreditation.

Mr Ferguson added: “From our investigations, what is clear is that when the original applications were made, between 2013-2015 for the Northern Ireland RHI, planning permission was not a pre-requisite of the scheme.

“As is there no mention of any need for planning permission, or confirmation of exemptions such as ‘Permitted Development’ in the application process, we would like to know on what grounds are Ricardo seeking this information and for what end? It is not acceptable that planning is being used as a stumbling block for RHI recipients during the audit when it was not a requirement in the original application nor eligibility criteria,” says the UFU deputy president.

The Union has asked the DfE to clarify their position on what they regard as unspecified audit criteria.