Ireland, 1st March, 2020: If some farmers do not cease what they are doing under current planning legislation, they run the risk of prosecution up to imprisonment, following legal action by the planning authority, not to mention the considerable legal costs involved. This can put farmers out of business and damage the local economy.
“Agricultural zoning should be flexible enough to facilitate diversification in farming, including reasonable intensification of what is being carried out on site. Without this flexibility, we run the risk of putting the smaller and medium size growers out of business,” says Seanad election nominee and planning professional, Joe Corr. “The only other option is that these farmers consider purchasing buildings on land that allows an agribusiness use, which is not a reasonable expectation on the basis of the need to relocate and raise the necessary finance to do so. “
As an example a 300sqm agricultural shed for the storage of a farmer’s own fresh produce is exempt from the normal planning process. But should a retail customer request that the farmer supplies them with broccoli as well as the potatoes already being directly supplied, this may have planning implications for the farmer. The broccoli will likely have to be sourced from another farm, so they will now be supplied with a product grown elsewhere. On the surface this appears fine, until the broccoli that has been brought in is stored in the farmer’s agricultural shed, exempt from planning. The planning laws are now being contravened. The Declaration of Exemption from the local authority to store produce does not include produce brought on to the farm from elsewhere.
“But fixing the situation should be straightforward. The planning authorities need to allow for diversification in farm practices through progressive policy objectives contained within their Development Plans. If an agricultural shed is exempt from planning, why can it not facilitate the storage of fresh produce grown in the vicinity of a farm by local farmers?,” said Joe Corr. “This refers to produce grown locally within the farming community of the area. That way, farmers can expand their business and contribute further to the rural economies. If we do not address this planning issue as a matter of urgency, perhaps we will find that all our green fresh produce is imported from outside the country. This in turn will have significant implications on carbon emissions, food miles and food security.”
Joe Corr has been nominated to contest the forthcoming Seanad election by the Irish Planning Institute (IPI); the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI); and the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI).