IFA President Joe Healy has said attempts by local authorities to deem farmland ‘vacant’ for the purposes of the vacant site levy are completely unacceptable and not in line with the intention of the legislation to bring in such a levy.
Joe Healy said it is abundantly clear that land being used for agricultural purposes is neither ‘vacant nor idle’.
He pointed out that no definition of these terms exists in the relevant Act and local authorities are merely acting on a circular issued by the Department of Housing, Planning & local Government which unilaterally decrees that agricultural land zoned for another purpose is ‘vacant or idle’. He said this should be withdrawn and a new circular issued which makes it clear that farmland is not included in the definition of ‘vacant or idle’.
IFA met Minister of State John Paul Phelan last October to make these points and object to the content of the implementing circular which is not reflective of the Act.
Joe Healy said farmers have a right to farm their land, and no obligation should be placed on them to use it for any other purpose, “IFA cannot and will not accept a situation where farmers whose land has been zoned are effectively forced to sell or develop it to avoid this punitive tax. Our members are very anxious that the matter is addressed immediately by amending this circular to remove the application of the levy to farmland.”
The Chairman of IFA’s Farm Business Committee Martin Stapleton said, “The inclusion of farmland goes against the original intention of the legislation which was to ensure that unused land, in the hands of those waiting for the most opportune time to sell or develop, would be used and regenerated”.
Martin Stapleton said, “Farmers who want to continue to farm their land should be allowed to do so without having to pay such an extortionate tax”.
IFA has sought an urgent meeting with Minister Phelan and this week met with Kilkenny County Council, which has included several areas of farmland on its Vacant Site Register. This is a critical issue for the Association. It is unfair and unjust and we will be resisting it fully.