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Balmoral Show 2010 Day Two: Farmers’ anger at road schemes

By Linda Stewart

Farmers have described how land that has been farmed by their families for generations will be devastated by a series of road schemes.

They have called for Roads Service to become more accountable, urging that a Code of Practice must be developed to protect local people affected by roads schemes.

The farmers told the Stormont Agriculture Committee which was sitting at the Balmoral Show yesterday that Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK and that has no such code.

Farmers objecting to schemes to dual the A6 through Randalstown and Toome and the A8 through Ballynure came together to outline the problems to committee members.

Committee chairman Ian Paisley jnr said he would look into progressing the idea of a Code of Practice.

The farmers said if it was possible to carry out major road upgrades on the M2 at Sandyknowes and the Westlink without increasing the footprint of the scheme, there was no reason why this approach couldn't be carried out in rural areas.

They also described how it was impossible to plan future farming activities when the property was under threat from a road scheme that might take years to go ahead, and said Roads Service was not willing to negotiate over compensation.

Afterwards Hilda Stewart, who farms near Randalstown, told the Belfast Telegraph how the planned new section of the A6 will leave her farmhouse stranded on a traffic island between the old road and the new.

She said it was only after a lot of pressure that Roads Service had agreed not to put the road through a farmhouse that had stood for 150 years.

“We are calling for procedural fairness — we want to be treated seriously,” she said.

“Roads Service don't have a Code of Practice for Northern Ireland but there is one in England.

“I think it is not acceptable that there are no guidelines laid down as to what we can expect from them and what they can expect from us.”

Meanwhile, Ballynure beef farmer Jimmy Mills, whose farm will be split in two by a planned dualling scheme for the A8 Larne line, said objectors put forward a more straightforward scheme that would cost less — but have been ignored by Roads Service.

He said farmers who try to be good stewards of the land and adhere to all the legislation set down by Brussels have been dismissed.

“It seems that when you dont sell loads of building sites off and things that would probably be to our benefit because they are worried about affecting houses, you get ignored,” he said.

“My farm will be totally divided in two. The road goes right through the middle of it.

“Local farmers who will be affected have put forward a solution for the road which Roads Service want to ignore, simply because they have a pot of money to spend and they want to build an elaborate scheme — it's the biggest load of rubbish.”

He added: “We elected all these ministers but they don't seem to have any say when it comes to Roads Service — their hands are tied.”

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Round-up of results Day Two Balmoral Show

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