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Agriculture produces 97% of current ammonia emissions in NI and this consultation poses questions on the way forward in order to reduce ammonia emissions in NI.
There is no doubt that agriculture is a significant contributor to the Northern Ireland economy and so a balance needs to be struck to ensure a sustainable agri-food sector whilst also reducing ammonia emissions to protect the environment.
The targets DAERA proposes for 2030 are to:
Reduce agricultural ammonia emissions from Northern Ireland by at least 30%, based on the 2020 emissions levels (from 31.2 kt in 2020 to 21.8 kt in 2030).
Reduce ammonia concentrations at all designated sites by at least 40% (using 2020 as the baseline year) or to below Critical Levels.
Further, the long-term target to 2050 is to reduce ammonia emissions to a point where Critical Loads of nitrogen deposition and Critical Levels of ammonia are at a more sustainable and pragmatic place.
To achieve such targets, two pillars of the Ammonia Strategy are proposed:
Pillar 1: An Ammonia Reduction Programme. Chapter 4 details numerous proposed measures to reduce ammonia, aimed to be implemented across NI and targeted to areas around designated sites. DAERA’s proposals for adopting such measures are also included.
Pillar 2: Conservation Actions to Protect and Restore Nature. Chapter 5 details for example, habitat restoration measures, the interlinked Peatland Strategy and SAC Conservation Management Plans.
Essentially DAERA want to provide funding for the implementation of ammonia reduction measures on farms through the Green Growth capital investment and future agriculture policy.
Management of ammonia emissions from new agricultural development have been a complex and contentious issue for a number of years, particularly where the proposed development is close to ecologically sensitive sites. It is inevitable therefore that planning authorities will begin to focus on the implementation of ammonia reduction measures when assessing planning applications for farm development. However, it is important that the new Strategy allows planning authorities to make pragmatic decisions.
A previous Shared Environmental Services decision about assessing ammonia in relation to planning applications was made without consultation and was later withdrawn following a legal challenge. Anyone with an interest in applications for agricultural development where ammonia emissions are likely should therefore review and respond to this consultation before it closes.
The consultation will run until 3 March 2023 and the aim is to publish the final Ammonia Strategy by June 2023. Response forms can be emailed to DAERA at firstname.lastname@example.org and the responses will be taken into account in order to inform the final Strategy for an incoming Minister to consider.
DAERA also plans to develop a Call for Evidence to inform the Operation Protocol for assessing air quality impacts on protected habitats so we expect to see this separate consultation forthcoming in 2023.
Please click here for a copy of the consultation.
TLT’s Belfast-based Planning, Environment & Future Energy team advises on all aspects of planning and environmental law in Northern Ireland and are qualified in Northern Ireland, England & Wales and the Republic of Ireland. For more information, please contact Andrew Ryan or Sarah Mulholland
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at February 2023. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.
22 February 2023
Senior Associate Belfast