A decision by the NI Environment Agency (NIEA) to drop the guidance it uses to assess ammonia emissions from livestock sheds will not be reversed by Agriculture Minister Andrew Muir.

The guidance, known as the operational protocol, was used by NIEA to assess the potential impact of ammonia emissions from agricultural buildings that are in the planning system with local councils.

“At this point, I have no plans to reverse the decision, rather my focus is on developing a new ammonia strategy that will be accompanied by new advice to inform planning decisions,” Minister Muir said.

Speaking at Stormont, the minister said that applications in the planning system are currently being assessed by “site-specific advice on a case-by-case basis” as no operational protocol is in place.

However, DUP MLA William Irwin pointed out that around 300 planning applications from farmers are currently stuck in the planning system due to the lack of advice on ammonia.

In response, Minister Muir said he is “aware of the current situation that is impeding planning applications”.

“My officials are working hard to address any issues in the system. We need to move at pace and to make sure that whatever we do is correct,” he added.