Belfast Telegraph

DoE 'prevents growth'

By Linda Stewart

Dale Farm chief David Dobbin has accused the DoE of stifling growth by over-regulating the agri-food industry.

The CEO of the multi-million turnover dairy coop said there needed to be a shift towards light touch regulation if the agri-food industry is to fulfil its potential.

Speaking at the Ulster Bank lunch at the Balmoral Show yesterday, Mr Dobbin said: "Our company had two plants in Britain, one in the Galloway National Park and one at Kendal in the Lake District national park.

"In both areas we were planning a major development and were seeking planning permission to double the size. One took 12 weeks and the other took 15 weeks and that was because there was a dispute over the colour it would be.

"We applied a few years ago for planning permission for a development at Pennybridge in Ballymena and 18 months later they were asking for an archaeology survey, drainage survey and assessment of impact on the cycle network. If we can't get planning permission at Pennybridge how do we expect the industry to grow?"

Mr Dobbin said that while everyone wants a clean environment, Northern Ireland Environment Agency's heavy handed approach is holding farmers back.

"In Scotland and England you see a partnership approach - they come and assess risk and address risk with us," he said.

"In Northern Ireland you get a jobsworth, copper plating, gold plating, heavy handed approach more like Policeman Plod than being a support."

Environment Minister Alex Attwood conceded Mr Dobbin had "fair points", but added: "I have made it clear that our natural heritage must be properly protected and that can be necessarily demanding.

"My approach has not been heavy-handed. I would like to think David Dobbin would recognise that a new order of things is emerging, that what I inherited a year ago is changing for the best."