Posts Tagged ‘Irish Farmers Journal’

Apple Farm looks for potential to increase juice capabilities

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Irish Farmers Journal

By Peter Young

Apple Farm looks for potential to increase juice capabilities

Five apples out of every 100 eaten in this country are Irish. Yes, just five. I had to ask Con Traas to repeat that figure when he first told me. I had always assumed that we grew a lot more apples than that in Ireland.

I know some of the reason is down to seasonality but, still, it seems very, very low. The figure is even more startling when put in context that the retail value of apples sold in Ireland is around €121m.

Simple maths put the value of Irish apples at just €6m retail. There must be potential to increase this.

Con Traas of the Apple Farm believes there is. A member of the Irish Apple Growers Association, he told me there are about 40 commercial apple growers in the country.

About half of these are small-scale with just two to five acres of orchards. Con has increased the orchards on his farm to 32 acres and plans to increase this further.

Initially, the apples were sold locally, with a lot sold through their farm shop.

To add value, they started to look into processing apples into juice in 1995 and got a LEADER grant for about £10,000.

”It was a lot of money at the time,” remembered Con.

Investment has continued with new cold stores put in to store the apples for longer periods on the farm, extending the season that customers can get his Irish apples.

The latest in investment is a new processing room for juicing apples.

Focused on increasing efficiency and cutting production costs, Con is planning to spend €300,000 on the latest project.

He was approved for a 35% grant under the Department of Agriculture scheme for processing of agricultural products.

The business now employs 10 people full-time, with up to 28 local people working during the busy picking season.


Dealing with the CPO process

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Irish Farmers Journal

By Richard J Rea

Up until recently, it was a foregone conclusion that the county council got their own way with the issuing of a CPO.

However, the lock-out of lands by landowners in 2000/2001 by the IFA resulted in a realisation, that landowners had rights and that legislation introduced in the time of the landlords was not a suitable procedure to use in a modern age. Arising from this background and the development of partnership talks with the Government, the December 2001 agreement between IFA/DOE/NRA arose. However, there was no change in the CPO legislation.

Prior to this agreement, the IFA recommended valuers who became involved in the CPO process, had been challenging the proposed designs to agree accommodation works which would relate to access, drainage, relocation of farm buildings and other design issues.

However, around this time, a new method of constructing roads was being developed known as ‘Design and Build’. This involved the local authority selecting up to five or six contractors and these selected contractors submited a price to design and build the road. The advantage to the State of this procedure is that the price is fixed and will generally be completed within time.

The disadvantage from the householders and property-owners’ point of view is that the final product could differ substantially from what was in the preliminary design, and due to the manner in which some roads are built, a more accurate description would be ‘Build and Design’.

Compulsory purchase orders have recently been issued on:

•N20 Cork to Patrickswell

N22 Adare bypass

N2 Slane bypass (part of Dublin to Derry route)

When a CPO is issued, it is generally accompanied (if it is a large project) with an Environmental Impact Statement – known as an EIS.

The information to be included in the EIS is stipulated in Article 3 the EIA Directive 85/337/EEC as amended by 97/11/EC and 2003/35/EC/EEC which states:

‘The information to be provided by the developer in accordance with paragraph one shall include at least:

—A description of the project comprising information on the site,

Design and size of project,

— A description of the measures envisaged in order to avoid, reduce

And, if possible, remedy significant adverse effects,

The data required to identify and assess the main effects which the project is likely to have on the environment,

An outline of the main alternatives studied by the developer and an

Indication of the main reasons for his choice, taking into account the environmental effects,

A non-technical summary of the information mentioned in the previous indents.

The EIS will contain a ‘draft design’ of the road.

Weakness

The weakness of these ‘draft designs’ is exactly that – they are draft designs and it is the contractor who will decide what is finally built, with little control from the local authority and no control by the person whose land is being acquired.

The EU Commission has queried the ‘draft design’ as it believes that this is contrary to ‘a description of the project comprising information on the site, design and size of the project, as it is not possible to supply information on the design when that has not yet been designed.

Affected property owners will be told at oral hearings that the road will be designed to NRA standards and subject to road audits at various stages.

An example of NRA poor design standards can be seen on local roads where there are embankments and minimum lengths of crash barriers. Such examples can be seen on new roads, where there are embankments leading to bridges over a motorway.

Such designs are, I consider, highly dangerous and likely to guarantee serious injury or a fatality in various parts of the country, sooner rather than later.

By the time the CPO is issued, the road location has been settled on. Underpasses and over-bridges have also been largely determined.

Property owners are entitled to recover their costs to protect their position. However, costs are legally only due from date of notice to treat, which is generally in the future – up to 18 months after the road is confirmed by An Bord Pleanála.

Thus, property owners need to have engaged their agricultural consultant/valuer well in advance of the issue of the CPO.

I consider the system is flawed in that the position pre-issue of CPO is shrouded in semi-secrecy, with no encouragement of landowners to engage competent CPO consultants by the acquiring authority.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is meant to be a process where the affected property owners are consulted over a number of years in the process required to prepare the environmental impact statement.

This is to avoid elementary mistakes, such as drains running uphill, being part of the design.

It is beyond comprehension as to how a meaningful consultation can occur when a number of people meet a property owner to consult with him in relation to draft design. This often happens in circumstances where the property owner is not encouraged to get professional advice and where it is not unusual to remove the draft design from the property owner after the alleged consultation.

I wish to point out that certain county councils and their designers have a positive pro-active approach, but, regretfully, a large number still have an 18th century attitude.

There is a major advantage of the local authority having a pro-active approach as this results in identifying problems at an early stage and an improved design or decision to resolve the problem being made.

An example of this that I have seen on many occasions involves private dwellings – where roads are put very close to a house, when the correct decision would be to remove the house or design the road differently.

Where houses are removed, there is no guarantee that the local authority will give planning permission for a new house on the same property. I am aware of one location where the local authority refused planning permission, despite the same local authority having issued a CPO on the private dwelling.

Consultation without real information is a total waste of time. It is a joke.

Thus, you can see that where a CPO is currently in the process of being issued on a property, payment could take up to five or six years.

It is clear from this long, drawn out process, that the property owners should retain consultant valuers who are well experienced to represent them and defend their position. The only time after the issue of the CPO. that they may be able to influence the design of the scheme will be in the oral hearing.