Local farmers’ planning applications still stalled

THE ONGOING issue over ammonia advice in the North is continuing to cause concern among farmers here in Fermanagh, who may not be able to replace their farm dwellings as a result of the situation.
Back in December the NI Environment Agency (NIEA) decided it would no longer be relying on the published Ammonia Standing Advice. Along with the delay in a formalised ammonia strategy being published by DAERA, this has led to delays in planning being granted for agricultural developments.
Last week local MLA Áine Murphy raised the issue, and the impact it is having on farmers here in Fermanagh, during a motion on farm investment at Stormont.
“Many farmers, particularly those who are my constituents, have had their planning applications stalled, with some applications sitting for four-plus years at huge cost,” said the Lisnaskea woman, who called for consideration to be given to the special circumstances of small rural farmers.
“A one-size-fits-all approach will not work, given the diversity of size, stock and designation of farms,” she continued.
“DAERA must conduct a further public consultation in advance of any formal policy decision to inform the future operational protocol.
“The operational protocol must be subject to a full equality impact assessment and a rural needs assessment. The publication of impact assessments must happen sooner rather than later. The publication of the ammonia strategy needs to take place as well.”
Ms Murphy noted the aim of the ammonia plans were part of the drive towards zero emissions, but noted it was aimed at bigger farms in particular, and called for more information from DAERA Minister Andrew Muir on support for farmers who are already doing their best to be more environmentally friendly.
“According to case studies presented in DAERA’s call for evidence document, technology to mitigate ammonia emissions is more effective when applied to pig, poultry and dairy farms, as they are more intensive,” she said.
“Given that the Minister’s top two priorities are climate change and the natural environment, I would like some clarity on the budget that the Minister intends to allocate to technologies for farmers to improve the natural environment.”
She added, “The Minister must ensure that the approach to replacement buildings does not inadvertently introduce barriers to farmers who are trying to decarbonise old agricultural buildings.”
Ms Murphy, pictured left, also called for an all-island approach to the issue.
“The Department must acknowledge the transboundary nature of emissions, and the Minister must work as closely as possible with his counterparts in the rest of Ireland to tackle emissions across the island as a whole,” she said.

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