Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ivor Ferguson says the long delays farmers have faced, some waiting well over a year for a decision, in the processing of farm planning applications as a result of ammonia regulations is “farcical and totally unacceptable.”
The UFU president made the comments following reports that DAERA and NIEA are to finally make decisions on outstanding cases.
Ivor Ferguson said:“DAERA must make the right decisions on planning applications and ammonia to ensure that local agriculture can progress.
“We have been pressing DAERA and NIEA for some time on this and have been critical of the way they have dealt with the issue.
“Significant internal policy changes took place at least twice in 2017. There was no consultation with farmers at any time, even though farmers had applied for planning in good faith and many had spent £10,000 or more on applications. This should not have happened and we need answers as to why this occurred and who made these decisions.
“We still do not know the extent of our ammonia emissions across NI and the UFU has concerns that some of the emission factors that are being used to calculate ammonia do not reflect the real situation on many local farms.
“While we welcome the fact that DAERA have commissioned a number of research projects to address these knowledge gaps, this will take time and in the meantime we are left in limbo using information that is out of date and is open to considerable question. How can farmers plans be judged by NIEA using information that cannot be substantiated?”
Mr Ferguson continued: “The UFU has been co-operating with NIEA in trying to improve our environment and farmers have already taken many steps to reduce ammonia emissions on their farms.
“Farmers who are upgrading their buildings and can show that they are reducing their ammonia emissions must be allowed to progress. To do otherwise has the potential to close Northern Ireland agriculture for business; this would be totally unacceptable and sends out the wrong message.”
The Ulster Farmers’ Union will be scrutinising the decisions as they roll out and will take whatever action is necessary to deliver a common sense approach for farmers.