A new code of practice is “an important safeguard” for farmers whose land is included in greenway projects, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).
The Code of Best Practice for Greenways has been developed by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and other stakeholders, including the IFA.
It forms part of the government’s Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways, which draws on experiences from previous projects around the country.
The new code outlines the procedures involved in the development of a greenway, such as consultation; planning; design and construction.
It details how farmers can engage in the process and sets out how the voluntary land acquisition process will work.
The document also deals with accommodation works and explains how farmers can employ the services of an agronomist or property advisor, when negotiating compensation.
A crucial part of the framework is a new sustainability payment for each farmer impacted by a greenway project; this once-off goodwill payment will be given for early sign-on and co-operation during construction.
The president of the IFA, Tim Cullinan, said this payment will be “on top of the full value of any land acquired for a greenway, as part of a voluntary land acquisition agreement process”.
“The farmer’s statutory rights are fully protected if they participate in this voluntary process. They still have full access to mediation and arbitration if there is no agreement on the valuation of the land and compensation for other impacts on their farms,” Cullinan said.
“IFA and farmers understand the importance of greenways to local communities. However, they can impact significantly on farmers whose lands are along the route.
“This code allows for a clear engagement process to minimise the impact and disruption to individual farms,” he added.
The sustainability payment rates for farmers are split into five band lengths based on the metres of land impacted by a greenway.
The total payment available ranges from €6,750 in band 1, where up to 100m is affected, to over €22,500 in band 5, which would see over 550m of a farmer’s land impacted.
IFA national environment chair, Paul O Brien noted that an essential aspect of the new code is the voluntary land acquisition agreement, in order to avoid the use of Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).
He said although the code, which was approved by IFA national council this week, is developed for greenways, it should be the standard for all projects around the country.
“Project promoters must work closely with farmers and landowners in a proactive manner that is sensitive to their needs and that maximises their support for, and goodwill towards, any proposed greenway,” O’Brien concluded.