Agricultural and Environmental Practices on Farms: Discussion with Comhairle na Tuaithe

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

I thank the representatives of Comhairle na Tuaithe for their presentation. I have a few thoughts on the matter.

A few years ago, when a rural scheme was promoting access to pathways through farms, I was anxious to establish a path through my land. I encountered all the obstacles that other members have noted. Insurance was a huge issue. The matter seemed to involve a number of agencies and was very confused. I wanted no financial reward. There may be goodwill among landowners, but providing access must be made easy. Farmers are busy and when planting season starts the pathway will be forgotten until next year comes around.

Landowners must be given time to get a feel for permissive access. We are talking about creating pathways and permanency. We should forget permanency. If people get access for a few years and enjoy that, then so be it. A right of way can be closed once a year until a farmer feels comfortable with it. Over time, people will see the benefits of walking on hills. If there are negative effects from access it probably should not have been granted in the first place and can be curtailed. There might be a fear that, for example, a farmer’s son or daughter might want to build a house at some future date and the pathway might impinge on that. Such fears need to be allayed. In the majority of cases access, once given, will remain open.

I am involved in tillage. Very little damage can be done to tillage land. I might want to restrict access in the week of the harvest when there is a risk of round bales rolling on top of passers-by or from large machinery. One must take practical precautions and the initiative should be taken in that spirit. It is said that progress has stopped due to lack of funding. Very little funding would be required by farmers. There is considerable goodwill among them. Many people who live in the countryside work in the cities and appreciate the value of the rural environment. Losing weight, living healthily and walking has become almost a national obsession. Granting access also has benefits for the farming community. They can be seen to be engaging with their rural neighbours and taking a greater part in the community. This is a great initiative. It needs to be simplified.