Lo says rural planning policy should not be relaxed

Alliance Environment spokesperson, Anna Lo MLA, has voiced her opposition to an Assembly motion from Sinn Fein which said that PPS21, the rural planning policy for sustainable development in the countryside, should be revised to allow for greater development.

Motion: Non-farming Rural Dwellers

That this Assembly calls on the Minister of the Environment to bring forward revised legislation which would adequately meet the needs of this and future generations of rural dwellers, given that rural planning policy PPS21 on sustainable development in the countryside restricts the majority of non-farming rural dwellers from applying for planning permission and obtaining planning approval to build in the countryside.

[Mr C Boylan, Mr I Milne, Mr B McElduff]

Anna Lo MLA said: “It is the Alliance Party’s belief that PPS21 already provides opportunities for non-farming rural dwellers to build in the countryside.

“The previous Environment Minister stated that PPS21 was not only working effectively but that it had allowed continued flexibility in meeting the needs of non-farming rural dwellers.

“In the first quarter of 2013/2014 the approval rate for new single dwellings in the countryside was 90.1%. This was an increase from 88.8% in the first quarter in the previous year. Regarding replacement dwellings the approval rate was 93.3%, up from 92% the previous year. Looking at the figures, no one can really say planning approvals are not forthcoming. There is also an adequate appeals process that individuals may wish to use if their application is rejected.

“The level of development that has taken place in the countryside is not sustainable and the development pressure in the countryside remains high. We must not use the current economic climate to justify inappropriate development – PPS21 is in place to provide measures to avoid this, I fear any further relaxation of this policy will be detrimental. Over-development of the countryside has a significantly negative impact on our environment and as legislators it is our responsibility to ensure our beautiful landscapes are preserved for generations to come.

“Significant opportunities for development by non-farming rural dwellers already exist in PPS21; and we believe further exemptions are not required.”


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