Building red tape to hit farmers' pocket

Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Ken Whelan

Farmers face another blizzard of statutory red tape under new building control regulations circulated by the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan in the Dáil last week.

The amended controls, which the minister says are necessary to bring building regulation up to speed in the wake of the 'pyrite' scandal in Dublin, came into operation on the first of this month.

However, the control, though primarily aimed at rogue builders of urban housing estates, will apply throughout the rural construction sector and will cover most types of agricultural buildings.

New farm buildings over one storey high or over 300 sq metres in area, extensions to existing farms buildings, and buildings not used exclusively for plant, machinery or agricultural-related materials are affected by the new rules.

Similarly, new buildings not exclusively used for the housing, care or management of livestock come within the ambit of the new regulations.

The new rules will also apply to any new houses built on sites on farmland.

And in future farmers will find it extremely difficult to 'self build' and this measure will have implications for rural employment in the agri-construction sector, as will the requirement for building contractors and sub contractors to register under the regulations before any work can be commenced.

Death knell

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The Construction Federation of Ireland (CFI) are one of the registration monitoring bodies tasked with ensuring the new regulations are adhered to.

The new regulations will spell the "death knell of construction in rural Ireland", one agri-construction source told the Farming Independent this week, while another said the amount of new bureaucratic red tape facing farmers wishing to improve farm infrastructure will be "bewildering".

The cost implications of the regulations are still being counted by the sector but registration fees, higher insurance premiums, new administration costs and the inevitable cost of the red tape will inflate the costs of farm and rural construction plans.

There are also fears that the completion deadlines for whatever building goes ahead on farms this year will be impossible to meet given the level of outside independent certification that is required under the new regulations.

"You can forget about any building being carried out in rural Ireland or on farms this year because of these new rules," an industry source told the Farming Independent.

The ban on self-build effectively means that a farmer embarking on a farm building which falls within the regulations will have to employ a registered builder/contractor, a designer to prepare compliant drawings and specifications and a design certifier to confirm compliance and to lodge plans with the local county council and then apply for a commencement order.

It is understood that the county councils have asked the Department of the Environment to delay the introduction of the regulations until they have the necessary staff capable of dealing with the updated building regulations.

Indo Farming