Farm Ireland

Friday 17 November 2017

'Farmers face costs of up to €60,000 for an underpass because bureaucracy'

Martin Ryan

A former minister has described the cost of installing underpasses to improve road safety “a crisis situation”.

Ned O’Keeffe told the ICMSA AGM at Limerick that farmers face costs of up to €60,000 for an underpass because of the “restrictions and bureaucracy”.

He was responding to a motion from ICMSA executives in Carlow and Macroom that underpasses should be grant aided under TAMS and that the planning system should promote rather than hinder their use in the interest of farm and road safety.

Mr O’Keeffe described the situation as “ludicrous” where farmers faced “almost insurmountable difficulties” with the NRA and the local authorities, despite the improvement it would achieve for the safety of both road users, the farmer and animal safety.

Macroom ICMSA’s Tim O’Callaghan called for farmers to be allowed to carry out the work or engage a contractor “which will reduce the local authority costings by more than 50pc”.

“In my area the local authority wanted €30,000 for a small underpass where a dairy farmer has three-quarters of his land at the other side of a country road. The cost of the pre-cast underpass needed was €11,000 plus a few loads of filling and a couple of loads of concrete,” he said.

“It is a nightmare for any farmer having to bring cows across the public road four times a day and there have been several accidents as a result. I know of several cases where farmers lost five to seven cows — and risked their own lives — where drivers collided with them. Farmers are constantly having to choose their times for crossing — it is no way to have to farm — and a lot could be resolved if there was a different approach by the local authorities and farmers were allowed to carry out the work to the required specifications,” he stressed.

Rural affairs chairman, Patrick Rohan, called for underpasses to be included under TAMS.

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“It’s surely up to individual farmers to decide what specific piece of infrastructure-investment they wanted on their farm subject to the €80,000 per individual maximum.

“ICMSA has never understood why the Department deliberately omitted underpasses from TAMS eligibility when it was obviously a question for the farmers themselves and one they were making on the grounds of animal welfare, farmer health and safety and overall farm development,” he said.

He alleged that “some background anti-dairy bias” had kept underpasses out of TAMS, and targeted them for planning permission and other expenses.

“So not alone was the State not helping them; it seemed to be actively opposing them,” he added.

The motion was passed unanimously.

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