Monday’s Prime Time Investigates revealed the extent of dysfunction in Irish planning, and farmers are suffering along with others who need to build.
Any farmer who has a planning application pending or planned must have felt their blood run cold watching Prime Time Investigates on Monday night.
The murky underbelly of planning in Ireland was utterly exposed, to the disgust of all, but to no-one’s surprise.
Farmers have never been more exposed to the vagaries of planning in Ireland. If you are building extra slurry or dirty water storage capacity, you probably need planning permission.
If you are erecting a shed to cover a collecting yard, handling unit or feeding area to minimise slurry and dirty water volumes, or even a farm roadway, you need planning permission.
Setting aside whether this is appropriate or not, the practical difficulties of navigating the Irish planning process need addressing. A farmer would be very unlucky to encounter a shakedown from an objector purely out to make money.
However, such a racket would not be possible if our planning process was properly resourced. The core problem is the sheer length of time it takes to work through an objection.
Anything up to two years can be lost, irrespective of whether the objection is from a concerned neighbour, a legitimate environmental organisation, or a shakedown artist.
Costs apart, time is simply something many farmers don’t have, as they struggle to comply with environmental regulations.
Eamon Ryan will soon publish his long-promised blueprint for the building of 200 anaerobic digestion plants.
Considering the forestry sector has been brought to a near-standstill by objections to planting and harvesting applications, you’d want to be a blind optimist to think we’ll see more than a dozen built in a decade without changes to our planning laws.
With burning of bushes now banned, let’s hope farmers who want to turn green waste into organic fertiliser fare better than the Clearys of Larchhill farm, who only now are being vindicated after a decade long battle with the Irish planning process, covered in these pages.
The truth exposed by RTÉ on Monday was that the planning system is so loaded that blanket objectors can stymie the system.
That might be done in the belief that such an action is in the general good, or it may be for more sinister reasons.
A farming planning application will involve architectural fees, it may require an Environmental Impact Assessment, so it’s not cheap.
There may be an associated time-limited TAMS grant involved. The system needs changing, and it needs more resources to deal with legitimate objections in a timely manner. Justice delayed, after all, is justice denied.