Northern Ireland

UFU says farm safety 'must be part of planning decision'

Farm safety is not being taken into enough consideration in planning decisions, according to the Ulster Farmers Union.

The UFU feels approval for homes has sometimes been rejected unnecessarily.

Some of the alternative sites suggested posed many dangers, says Jason Rankin, legislation chairman for the UFU.

"Our members are very aware of the need to sensitively locate new developments so they don't provide a visual intrusion," he says.

"We've found that these locations are often rejected, and planners are insisting these new builds should happen on the edge of yards, in some cases beside slurry lagoons or at the back of the yard where traffic has to go through the middle of a busy farm.

Campaign

"We find this is completely unacceptable, from a health and safety point of view."

The UFU recently launched the Stay Farm Safe campaign to try to reduce the number of farm fatalities but the number of accidents in general, which all too often involve children.

The UFU has provided examples of cases in which it feels health and safety considerations have not been taken into account to Alex Attwood, the Environment Minister, at his request.

It has also raised this issue with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland as part of its wider discussion on farm health and safety.

Farmers are facing difficult decisions about whether or not to accept the planning service's alternative site, says Jason Rankin.

He is concerned with how planning applications are being interpreted.

"This has to be done on a case-by-case basis, but I know of several people who have decided not to go ahead. In some cases, they feel they have to go ahead because they feel there's no alternative.

"We feel there is scope in PPS 21 for houses to be located more sensibly, away from the farmyard cluster.

"However, we feel the implementation has not been consistent, and it's more a case of the interpretation of these policies than the policies themselves."