Richard Collins, of FBA Consultants, discusses what awaits Limerick farmers working and living along the routes for new roads
IN THE next few years County Limerick is likely to experience major new road construction works.
No doubt the advent of the Ryder Cup to Adare in 2026 has been a catalyst for this development. However, the M20 motorway between Limerick and Cork has been in the pipeline for several years, as well as EU pressure for improved connections between the port of Foynes, Limerick city and the rest of the country. Recent talk of new industrial developments in the Shannon Estuary are further stimulating the need for better overall connectivity throughout Munster.
FARMING ALONG THE ROUTE
Intensive farming, particularly dairying, is the main enterprise throughout this entire area. Welcome as the improved roadway network will be, the disruption to farming will obviously be huge. If my recent experience of dealing with intensive farming situations, on the Listowel, Macroom, Enniscorthy and New Ross bypasses is anything to go by, these farmers are in for many sleepless nights.
THE EARLY STAGES
First up for the go ahead is the Foynes to Limerick Road Scheme (including Adare bypass). The compulsory purchase orders are in the process of being notified to the impacted landowners. Legal processes to move this project to the preliminary construction stages are likely to take at least one year and during this period landowners will need to take all necessary steps to minimise the impact on their farms and also maximise the compensation to which they will be entitled. This will be no easy task, but it has to be faced up to.
At this early stage I will list out the most important steps that each landowner, and indeed other property owners, such as home owners should take. As matters progress I will go into more detail, particularly the pitfalls that have to be watched out for.
SELECTING COMPENSATION AND ACCOMMODATION WORKS TEAM
Step 1: Selection of an agronomist valuer
The agronomist valuer will probably be the most critical professional member of the owner’s compensation and accommodation works management team. Ideally, the owner would be knowledgeable enough to make critical decisions, but if this is not the case, the agronomist valuer should be in the best position to give advice at the critical stages.
The entire process from start to finish, is complex and requires the services of a qualified and experienced Agronomist valuer to deal, in the first instance, with any objections that may need to be made to the road scheme. This must be done within weeks, otherwise there will be no point complaining at a later stage. This should lead to negotiations with the roads authority about essential farm accommodation works such as underpasses, proper accesses, drainage, fencing, planting etc.
The objection process will be followed by detailed assessments and preparation and submission of the claim for compensation. This will be then be followed by negotiations for satisfactory compensation. These services are free to landowners, so availing of the best qualified and experienced specialist’s makes good sense.
Step 2: Selection of a solicitor
Just as the services of an experienced agronomist valuer will be essential, legal services, for this type of work, are also very specialised, particularly in complex cases where it could take the painstaking process of arbitration to get satisfactory compensation. An experienced solicitor who is familiar with the family affairs is usually in the best position to provide a reliable service. If agreement on all matters cannot be achieved by negotiations, the arbitration process generally requires the instruction of a barrister. As in the case of the rest of the team, relevant experience is extremely important. It is highly neglectful to take a casual approach to the team selection in the initial stage because once the process gets underway, it is very difficult to change horses mid-stream.
WHAT CAN IMPACTED OWNERS EXPECT?
A typical time-frame for the Foynes – Limerick Scheme (including Adare bypass) from now on will be five to six years. Of this, the construction phase is likely to take four to five years and preliminary and post-construction works will take the balance.
Owners should be prepared for unbelievable disturbance and frustrations during this entire period. Many landowners in the Foynes/Limerick area will have experienced the disturbance caused by the gas pipeline construction some years ago. The disturbance experience of roadway construction is likely to be several times greater. In earlier years, when the responsibility for road construction works was directly in the hands of county councils, the entire process was relatively straight forward. More recently, with the takeover of the process by the roads authority, outside contractors and valuers are much less sensitive to owner’s requirements.
It is some consolation for owners to know that the rules and regulations governing the compensation process are very robust, and it is up to owners to insist that these rules and regulations are not abused and taken advantage of by anybody. This can be difficult. While the provision of accommodation works to minimise the impact on property is not compulsory on the part of the roads authority, landowners should insist that reasonable works are provided before finalising any compensation.
The professional costs of preparation and negotiating the compensation claim such as agronomist valuers and lawyers are part of the owner’s compensation, and the frequently threatened risk of having to pay these costs is seldom justified, when good judgement is used by owners. Over the years, I have had to assist numerous owners to take their cases to assessment / arbitration and in no case had these owners to pay costs. It has become very obvious to me that the reluctance of owners to stand up for their rights is resulting in ridiculous compensation proposals. This may be understandable, but it highlights the need for owners to be extremely vigilant.
I have no hesitation in advising that the key to success is attention to detail in every step and ensuring that the management team is fully expert and prepared to fight the case to the finish if necessary. Owners should be conscious that at the start of the process they are likely to be told of all the upsides of their case, but when the crunch comes to fight the case, all this optimism tends to quickly evaporate.
Over the coming months I will highlight the important actions that landowners need to undertake to minimise the impacts of major road construction works on property.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The questions land owners will be asking over the next few years will be numerous. For example:
1. How much will I get per acre?
2. Can I get the road moved?
3. Will the drains be damaged irreparably?
4. Will I get a livestock underpass / overpass?
5. Should I change my farming system now in anticipation of the disturbance?
6. Would the roads authority buy me out totally?
There is no single straightforward answer to these questions. Each case will be different. As the opportunity arises I will address some of these questions in a general way and will give more precise answers in the cases I will become familiar with.
Richard Collins is an agronomist valuer and co-author of the book entitled A Practical Guide to Compulsory Purchase in Ireland. He can be contacted at email@example.com and phone 025-31244