Farmers who have had planning applications stuck in the planning system, in some cases for years, will finally receive clarity after intervention by the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister, Edwin Poots.
The planning rules for assessing ammonia from farm applications has held up many applications. The Ulster Farmers’ Union has lobbied against a change by Shared Environmental Services (SES) relating to how ammonia is measured. A legal challenge by the UFU has now lead to the SES withdrawing guidance for assessing the impact of ammonia, which the union welcomed.
UFU president Victor Chestnutt said, “Many of our members were left utterly frustrated as their planning applications were passed back and forward between SES and NIEA. The lack of clarity surrounding planning permission in recent months halted the entire process and left farmers in limbo.
“Last year the UFU were forced to take legal action to challenge SES when the planning rules for assessing ammonia from farm applications were changed again, without warning or discussion with industry, politicians or other stakeholders. Many of our members had already applied for planning or were preparing applications before this revised guidance was put in place. They had made financial commitments and, in some cases, spent thousands of pounds only to be left high and dry as the requirements changed.
“These planning investments on farms can reduce emissions while increasing productivity and have the potential to provide new construction and employment opportunities in rural areas. Something we should all be pushing for due to the impact COVID-19 is having on our economy.
“Ammonia does remain a challenge and our farmers recognise that it has to be addressed across NI. We need to move forward and develop an action plan that delivers for farmers and the environment however, the duplication of work by SES and NIEA is not benefitting anyone.”