Northern Ireland

Every field in Northern Ireland to be re-mapped

The Department of Agriculture has begun the huge task of re-mapping every field in Northern Ireland.

The £4.8m exercise will involve the use of specialised aerial photographs.

The move follows fines imposed by the European Commission over mistakes in agricultural subsidy claims.

The Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew said 60 staff had been redeployed from the planning service to help improve the situation as quickly as possible.

The minister set up the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) improvement project to systematically review and, if necessary, correct each of the 742,000 fields currently used to claim the Single Farm Payment subsidy.

The project uses aerial photographs known as ortho-imagery to produce the maps, and is being delivered as a joint project between the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Land and Property Services (previously known as the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland).

Announcing the project, the minister said: "It is unfortunate that the EU decided to take a hard line and impose a £31m disallowance for the 2004-6 scheme at such a difficult economic time, both for the Executive and the wider economy as a whole. That said, the EU decision has been made and we have to move to mitigate future disallowance."

Ms Gildernew continued:"The quicker we can identify areas which are ineligible for specific claims and get them corrected, the sooner we can address EU criticisms and provide reassurance. In the meantime, I will continue to fight the existing disallowance threat with support from the local industry and our three MEPS."

The Department of Agriculture said it hopes to begin producing revised maps for farmers by early 2011.