UFU – Northern Ireland land vesting compensation for road projects should be on par with Great Britain

Wednesday, 22 May, 2013

    UFU – Northern Ireland land vesting compensation for road                  projects should be on par with Great Britain

 

The Ulster Farmers’ Union recently met with the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Regional Development Committee to reiterate concerns over the A5 road project fiasco. The Union also stressed that current vesting compensation arrangements for land in Northern Ireland must be reviewed and should be at least on par with that of Great Britain.

UFU Deputy President Barclay Bell said; “Despite the A5 being quashed, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed. Land has been returned to its original owners; however, it is imperative that any reinstatement works are carried out quickly and that the land is handed back in an appropriate agricultural condition. It is also possible that undetected debris from the road project could be left behind which may cause damage to equipment or injury to livestock and there must be a mechanism put in place which would enable those affected to claim for any future damage. The Road Service does have a Code of Practice in place to help with all of this and I would expect that all work will be carried out in accordance with it. It is crucial that there are sufficient numbers of staff on the ground from the Department of Regional Development and Land and Property Services to ensure that there are no delays to this whole process. We also stressed that Single Farm Payments must not be delayed due the associated Force Majeure claims that will be made as a result of the A5 project.

“Northern Ireland’s current land vesting compensation arrangements remain an overarching issue that needs to be reviewed urgently. Farmers and landowners who have land vested for road projects are being unfairly treated in comparison to their Great Britain counterparts. In Northern Ireland, we are only offered market value for the land at the time of vesting whereas the Great Britain arrangement recognises that landowners are not willing sellers and provides and additional payment of up to 10% because of this. In addition, conacre arrangements are not taken into account in Northern Ireland either. However, in Great Britain ‘occupiers’ are offered 2.5% top-up payment, which is recognition of the adverse impact on the land tenant. A road project can drag on for many years, like the A5, with the land being rendered agriculturally unusable and resulting in potential profit losses to a farm business. On the whole, enhanced compensation would help to make the process more straightforward and may ultimately help to reduce the overall costs of a road project.

“The fact remains that farmers and landowners in a vesting situation are unwilling sellers and in many cases no amount of compensation will help to counter the loss and uncertainty those affected will experience. However, in a land vesting situation farmers and landowners should be treated fairly and Northern Ireland’s land vesting compensation arrangements should, at the very least, be on par with that of Great Britain.”