UFU condemn NIEA decision to stall on-farm planning applications

UFU deputy president David Brown on his farm in Fermanagh. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has condemned the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) for stalling planning applications on farms that consider ammonia implications.

UFU president David Brown said, “The UFU has been made aware that NIEA has contacted planners, informing them that they have paused all consultations on agriculture planning applications with ammonia considerations. Stagnating farm developments across NI impacts all sectors and farms of all sizes and will have wide reaching implications. Local food production will be hit, especially considering the efforts to tackle the shortage of eggs in Britain. The construction industry will also be affected as this pause on farm consultations has the potential to linger on for a lengthy period with no suggestion as to when things will resume again.

“NI farmers are already working to reduce ammonia and are eager to do more by developing their farm efficiently to produce sustainable high-quality food. Instead of encouraging this ambition and supporting our farmers to upgrade buildings, improve animal and bird welfare and environmental standards, NIEA has halted positive agriculture developments. To say our farmers are frustrated is an understatement and how they are being treated by NIEA is completely unfair. It calls NIEA’s capability into question when their decision to stall on-farm planning applications is due to their failure to agree on an appropriate planning policy to support the reduction of ammonia emissions.

“Our farmers have spent thousands on planning applications, backed up by essential evidence. They have done what is required and yet are no further forward. Many of these applications have been lingering in the system for years. NIEA must get to work urgently and progress with applications that are currently within the planning process. We are aware that DAERA are planning a ‘Call for Evidence’ which should provide the clarity going forward that we have been waiting on for years, but it’s not acceptable to halt consultations in the meantime. Especially when the ‘Call for Evidence’ cannot be progressed much further with no DAERA Minister in place, leaving on farm developments in stalemate for the foreseeable future. 

“This is a pressing matter, and we will consider seeking legal advice on NIEA’s latest approach and will be contacting DAERA/NIEA on this issue.