Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots backed farm supplier Co Down who wanted to keep a livestock barn on their land, even though it was built without planning permission.
But one of the former DUP leader’s colleagues on Ards and North Down City Council dismissed his application, made on behalf of his local agricultural supplier, George Burton.
Mr. Burton wanted to keep the farmhouse on Mans Road, Ballygowan, even though he never had permission to build it.
The Planning Committee at Ards and North Down City Council heard a statement as well as a presentation from Mr. Poots.
All elected members of the committee, with the exception of adviser to DUP party group leader Robert Adair, followed the recommendation of planning board officials to deny permission to build the barn.
The site was the subject of a previous planning application for a new agricultural building, which was recommended by council officials for rejection in 2019 on the grounds that it conflicted with sustainable rural development policies.
The Council stated that the applicant did not provide sufficient information to confirm that the existing agricultural enterprise was active and existed for at least six years, that a new building was necessary for the holding and that there were no other buildings that could not be used.
Then this statement was withdrawn. An agricultural building was then built on this site without permission, which is currently the subject of enforcement proceedings by the council.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera), which Mr. Putts leads as minister, is the official bid planning consultant and has confirmed to the board that the business has not been established for more than six years or that Mr. Burton has applied for one-time agricultural payments for the last six years. Farm maps were not handed over to the council at the time of application.
Mr. Poots, who appeared in support and was introduced as such, told the council committee: “What interests me is that Mr. Burton has been supplying agricultural products for many years about five miles from our property, which we have used many times. once in years. It has been serving the farming community for probably about 40 years. He always wanted to farm, and in 2016 he had the opportunity to buy a piece of land.
“There was a delay in acquiring the land because it was in a will, so he didn’t actually take possession until 2017. He spent several years tidying up this land, applying for a business ID, herd numbers, etc. As with many things, the problem with herd numbers is that you are asked to demonstrate that you own a paddock. for cattle and somewhere to keep your animals in terms of covered space which Mr Burton didn’t have.
Mr Putts said the Planning Commissioner of Appeal previously gave permission for a similar application in 2014, before Mr Burton purchased the cattle.
The MLA said: “He had well-fenced suitable land, but he needed a livestock welfare building so he could get the amount of farm herd that is needed to keep the livestock.
“Mr. Burton now has a herd number, and he was able to do it because he had love and a building in which he kept the animals.”
A member of the planning council told the committee: “It is considered that the agricultural holding has not been established for more than six years and therefore does not meet this initial part of the policy test. Recognizing the special circumstances of each application, the council’s planning department has sought to consistently apply planning policies.”
She added: “Inconsistency in the approach to applying the six-year time limit could open the board to a potential problem. Most of the cases referred to the committee showed that although the farms have existed for six years, the agricultural holding has not owned them for six years.
“This app has neither. The enterprise has not been in existence for six years, and the six-year test requiring that proposals to locate outbuildings in an existing and established agricultural holding cannot be satisfied, and this proposal is considered contrary to planning policy.
“The applicant was well aware of the requirements of the policy, given the filing of an application for the construction of a barn in 2018, which was then recommended for rejection and withdrawn. And the current barn, which is the subject of the current application, was built in violation of the planning rules.
Alliance adviser Gavin Walker suggested that the committee accept the officer’s recommendation to reject the application: “I share the feeling of compassion for Mr. Burton, as he was in a very difficult position.
“But we have no choice but to follow the rules that are laid out quite clearly in front of us. And, unfortunately, it does not meet the required criteria.”