Speaking as the party submitted its response to the Government’s consultation process, Party Leader David Ford stated: “We have strongly welcomed the principles behind PPS14. There is no question that recent development has put some rural areas at risk, and that particularly there is an environmental threat through excess building in the countryside. In the 21st century, we cannot continue just to turn a blind eye to that as others are suggesting.
“However, there remain serious social issues in rural areas that have not been addressed by the Government in these plans. The whole notion of the future of rural society in Northern Ireland is at stake, including the succession of farming land.
“We must identify the real source of the threat to the countryside. There is no problem with farmers’ families living in modest-sized houses and passing them down the generations. The problem is primarily the excessive number of people with no rural roots moving to the countryside into new or renovated properties which are not in keeping with the surrounding area.
“There are examples of good practice in dealing with this elsewhere in Europe, even within the UK, from which we need to learn quickly. It is not enough simply to maintain people in the countryside – we have to maintain the countryside itself for the coming generations, and indeed for the many visitors who know it worldwide as an outstanding attraction.
“Our objective is a lively, vibrant, rural population rather than an area destroyed by huge continental-style buildings. With PPS14 we have a long way to go, but at least we are on the right road.”