Archives For Agriculture and Environment

Statement by Jim Allister MLA:

“The application which has now been made by Elgin Energy for a unprecedented massive solar farm in Kells has led to a lot of unease to be expressed by residents via the KellsVocal group.

“Over the last number of months I have sought definitive answers from the Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, that PPS 18 was never designed to contend with such application of such scale which effectively leaves it unfit to determine this application. The Minister needs to act now to gain public confidence that the right decisions are being taken.

“This application seeks to impose solar panels across 250 acres of farmland, impacting on the rural setting that residents are accustomed to. I am also greatly concerned about the disigenous suggestions of job creation – yes, jobs would be created in the construction, but they would not be sustained throughout the life time of the solar farm – only minimal jobs would be sustained.

“I have now put it directly to the Minister responsible that there is an absolute need for a Public Inquiry under his powers. Not only is this application divisive, but a decision without proper scrutiny can set a precedent that could have a long lasting impact across Northern Ireland.”

Note to Editor:

Mr Allister’s Representation to DOE / Planning Department:

4th August 2015

Dear Minister,

Re: Planning Ref: LA03/2015/0234/F;  Kells Solar Farm application

I write both as a local elected representative and as a local resident to register my opposition to this application.

By any standard this is a massive application, seeking to amass and impose solar panels across 250 acres of active farmland. Applications of such scale might be acceptable on something like a disused airfield, but not at this farming location.

The transformative impact of this proposal in this rural setting would be wholly disproportionate and adverse to the rural and residential ambience of the area. The prevailing rural character would be destroyed and the amenity devastated. Presently, dwellings nestle at ease with their environment within this undulating farmland, but what is proposed would import an incongruous land use, destructive of both visual, environmental and residential amenity.

It is clear to me that the driver for this proposal is not the suitability of the land, but its proximity to the Kells Sub-station. I also note the disingenuous pretence that job creation would result. The reality of a solar farm is that it does not sustain jobs, given that in the post-construction phase it operates with minimal attention. Thus, there can be no valid support for this application on the basis of economic/employment gain.

Given the gross inadequacy of the prevailing planning policy guidance for proposals of this magnitude – PPS 18 was never designed to cope with such proposals – and the quality of the objections, I firmly believe the proposal should be subjected to a local public inquiry and that prematurity would be an additional and appropriate ground for refusal.

Moreover, I fear the consequences of approval not just for this site but in terms of precedent.

I trust, therefore, that this proposal will be rejected.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Allister MLA

Letter dated 20th July seeking Public Inquiry:

Mark H Durkan MLA

Department of Environment Minister

20 July 2015

Dear Minister,

Re: Solar farm application, Kells LA03/2015/0234/F

I write to urge you to exercise your powers under Art 31 of the Planning Order to ensure that a public inquiry is called on this extensive application.

You will be aware of the considerable public unease. Such, I suggest, can only be adequately addressed through an Art 31 inquiry.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Allister MLA

Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:-

“The plight of our fishermen is undeniable. Yet, Minister O’Neill continues to sit on her hands. Once more she is trying to hide behind EU rules. Bad as the EU undoubtedly is, it does allow de minimus payments of up to €7,500 per recipient to relieve hardship. Why is the minister not availing of this option?

“Thus she can help, but, so far, has refused to do so. She must now step up to the mark and assist.”

TUV leader Jim Allister has spoken out in the Assembly about the delay in Single Farm Payments to his farming constituents in the Portglenone area, whose area was chosen by DARD for remote sensing inspection.

Speaking during the debate on the topic Mr Allister said:- Continue Reading…

Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:-

“I am appalled, but not surprised, by Minister O’Neill lavishing €137m of farming money on the rural development programme, because she has form on such misdirection of funds. Last year she oversaw £844,000 of RDP funds go to one of the richest GAA Clubs in Ireland, Tyrone. Now, she is preparing the way for such further waste by over subscription to Pillar 2 and haemorrhaging of such funds from Pillar 1. Continue Reading…

TUV Leader Jim Allister has hit out at the threat to rural primary schools posed by John O’Dowd’s review of the Common Funding Formula and, in particular, his plan to withdraw the Small Schools Subsidy. Continue Reading…

TUV Leader Jim Allister spoke up strongly in support of the local fishing industry in a recent debate in the Assembly. Mr Allister, who worked closely with the industry when an MEP, accused DARD and government of taking the industry for granted and contrasted the rightful emergency aid to farming, arising from the spring weather, with the refusal to do anything to help fishermen.

Mr Allister, an ardent Eurosceptic, also used his speech to call for the repatriation of fishing policy  from the Europe, describing the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy as an unmitigated disaster which had reduced our industry to a mere shadow of its former self.

In the course of his remarks Jim Allister said:-

“It is probably an understatement to say that the fishing industry is a very difficult and very dangerous industry.  We had a sad reminder of the latter just last week when, off the coast of Southern Ireland, three brothers, all fishermen, tragically lost their life.  In the comfortable lives that we collectively lead, it is easy to forget the discomfort in which fishermen operate and the dangers and difficulties that they face.  It is an industry that is, sadly, taken for granted, not just by society but obviously, given the response that government makes to it, by government. Continue Reading…

Speaking in the Assembly debate on the impact on the farming community of the widespread errors in DARD’s LPIS mapping system TUV Leader Jim Allister described the situation as a ‘colossal failure by government’ for which no one was taking responsibility.

In the course of his remarks Mr Allister said:-


“Various words, such as “shambolic”, “appalling”, “pathetic”, and many more besides, have been used to describe the situation that has resulted from the mapping crisis.  In truth, few of them are adequate.  This is a failure of a colossal nature.  It is a failure by government.  You would think, to listen to some people in this House, that we did not have a system of government in which there is supposed to be a Minister who takes responsibility.  One would think that it was always enough to say, oh, technical difficulties, or someone else’s fault.  When do we ever, in this House, get to the point when a Minister will stand up and say, “My Department has failed, and failed lamentably:  I take responsibility for it and will act accordingly.”?  It seems that we never get to that point in this House.  I suspect that we will not get to it today as the person who is replying to the debate is a Member who knows nothing about farming and is someone who represents West Belfast.  I suspect that the chances of this debate reaping anything of value are nil, but there are points that need to be made.


“The situation is aggravated when the Minister’s apologists tell us, “Oh, all it takes is a phone call to get it sorted out”, as Mr McMullan did, or, “Do not worry so much about it.  Did we not put wonderful money into childcare?”, as Mr McAleer did.  Sorry; we are talking about issues that touch on the survival and, sometimes, the sanity of farmers, who are so pressurised and so at their wits’ end that this is not to be trivialised and swept aside by saying, “Oh, it is terrible that it has happened, but it is only 9%”.  There is a responsibility on government that goes, or should go, something like this:  if you implement a scheme and a system, you have a duty of care to those affected by it.  Where is the duty of care demonstrated by the Department towards the farmers who have been detrimentally affected by this scheme and by the maps that are utterly useless and riven with errors?


“We who are in touch with the farming community could regale the House with many episodes and incidents of farmers affected by this matter.  Let me deal with one:  a farmer who farms marginal lands in the foothills.  Some of the land is classified as low and raised bog, and it has been accepted into the countryside management scheme because it meets the fundamental criteria of that scheme for such land:  it is available to provide forage, has access for grazing and has a history of grazing.  All that is set out in, I think, OT3 of the guidance.  It is accepted into the countryside management scheme, but then the maps come along, and the land is coloured purple, meaning that all of it is disallowed.  An inspector photographs cattle grazing the land, but it is still disallowed.  The restriction on grazing to three months of the year is because of the countryside management scheme obligations, and yet the Department seeks to maintain that that farmer is not entitled to include that land.  When he complains, the answer is, “Oh, you can appeal it”.  Yes, he can appeal it, but when?  By that stage, he is liable to be bankrupt.  His single farm payments for 2012 and 2013 have been denied, but he is simply told, “Oh, you can appeal it”.  What use is that?  Where is the sense of responsibility for a Minister who recognises that this is a shambles of her making?  It is time that she faced up to that.  It is clear that she is not bearing any pain but there are many who are.  It is pain that she should feel but sadly does not.”