Attwood announces easing of planning rules for farmers

Environment Minister Alex Attwood today announced the easing of planning rules for farmers

The new rights, known as permitted development rights, will come in to operation in August 2013. They will increase the range of agricultural development that no longer needs planning permission.

Farmers will now be able to undertake new build or extend agricultural buildings including sheds for hay and straw, storage and maintenance of agricultural machinery and plant, milking parlours, slurry storage tanks and chicken and other livestock sheds without having to go through the planning application process.

This means farmers can construct buildings up to 500 square metres without the need for a planning application (the equivalent of over 5,000 square feet). Currently they can only erect up to 300 square metres without the need for a planning application.

Alex Attwood said: “These new rights, the most generous on these islands, will eliminate unnecessary red tape to enable agriculture to grow in a challenging economic climate. Extensive research has been carried out and I have listened and met with various groups and these changes are warmly welcomed. I want to help expand our agri-food business by 40% in the next few years. That is what producers tell me they hope to achieve – these changes can help the industry to do so.

“These new rights strike an essential balance, they free up farmers to make improvements with safeguards to protect neighbours and ensure that development is of an appropriate scale and character.”

The new rights will also provide for the installation of structures of up to 500 square metres to house anaerobic digestion plant on agricultural units. Put simply, anaerobic digestion is a treatment process using, for example, farm crops and animal waste to produce biogas which can be used as a fuel to power and heat the farm.

Alex Attwood continued: “Renewable energy and technology is our single biggest economic opportunity. This is why I am working hard to get planning better fit for purpose with more renewable approvals. Statistics published this week show an increase of 90% in renewable energy applications with almost nine in ten of these approved. This will help our economy and meet Executive Renewable Energy targets.

“These new rules will help farmers seize the benefits of renewable technologies such as anaerobic digesters which can help to make savings and reduce running costs in the longer term.”

The Minister concluded: “This year I have already paved the way for schools, businesses and farm buildings to install solar panels without planning permission and announced further rights to boost mobile phone and internet coverage in Northern Ireland.

“This is further proof that planning is turning corners. Over the past two years I have driven through changes and set challenging targets to speed up the planning process. Whether it is Article 31/ ministerial decisions, renewable energy decisions or new policies on tourism and heritage, reform is working. Planning is delivering benefits to the economy in an efficient and timely manner whilst protecting our environment. The DOE is leading in protecting the environment and in supporting economic recovery. These new rules further demonstrate this.”

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