Minister details exemption for farmers from vacant site levy

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Damien English this week detailed a new exemption for farmers from the Government’s new vacant site levy.

The concept of the vacant site levy for the purpose of incentivising the development of vacant and underutilised sites and urban areas for housing and regeneration purposes.

It was with the intention of bringing such sites back into beneficial use, ensuring a more efficient return on State investment in infrastructure and helping to counter urban sprawl.

However, recent months has seen a number of local authorities impose the levy on farm land a move which has been reacted to angrily by the IFA.

IFA President Joe Healy said it is very important that any ambiguity is removed and the meeting provides clarity to all local authorities that farmland should not be subject to the vacant site levy. He said land being used for agricultural purposes is neither ‘vacant’ nor ‘idle’ and to impose a levy on it would be completely unacceptable.

In the Dail this week Minister English detailed and amendment to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 relates to the clarification of what constitutes "vacant and idle" lands for the purposes of the vacant site levy on residential land.

This is to address the situation where developers or land speculators could hoard residentially zoned land and avoid the levy liability by leasing it or putting it to use for a non–residential purpose, for example, farming, by claiming that the land is not vacant or idle for the purposes of the levy.

The Minister said it is proposed that a site on residentially zoned land shall be regarded as vacant if it is "vacant or idle" or if it is not being used primarily for the purpose for which it has been zoned, that is, the provision of housing, where the most recent purchase of the land occurred after it was zoned residential, irrespective of when it was purchased.

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He added that by differentiating between lands purchased following a zoning change to residential and lands long held and operated as farms, the amendment targets developers or speculators who are hoarding zoned, serviced lands purchased for residential use, while also allowing farmers who have operated their farm for a number of years prior to the rezoning from agricultural to residential to continue to operate the farm without liability to the levy on the basis that no purchase of residentially zoned land was involved.

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