A PUBLIC enquiry into the Area Plan for an English national park could contain the key to resolving the problem on our own north coast of people being priced out of their local housing market.
The inspector conducting the public enquiry into the Area Plan for the Yorkshire Dales National Park has reported that it was a valid planning condition for new houses to be restricted to people from the area. He also made allowances for people to move to the area to take up existing or essential jobs.
Alliance leader David Ford said this could have great significance for north coast residents in Northern Ireland who cannot afford to buy a home in their area because housing prices are so high. This is largely due to the prevalence of second homes and holiday homes, which lie empty for much of the year, thus decimating established communities.
Mr Ford stated:
“This very important planning decision was taken because local people were being priced out of the area by affluent outsiders seeking to buy second homes. It is not retrospective, but will affect all new planning applications.
“I intend to raise this issue with Environment Minister Angela Smith MP. It is clearly a matter of great significance to resort areas around Coleraine on the north coast and some rural areas of Northern Ireland.
“I know that this is a very serious planning issue that has concerned people in the Portballintrae and Portstewart areas. Despite repeated representations to MLAs and Direct Rule Ministers, no creative thinking, action or legislation has been initiated to deal with the situation.
“Meanwhile young people from these areas cannot afford to buy houses in their home town, despite the fact that a quarter of the houses and apartments remain empty as investment and holiday homes.
“I share the people’s concern when they argue that the very sustainability of their communities is being placed in jeopardy by this inaction.
“Even if action was taken now for new planning applications locally, there would still be a large number of existing permissions which would operate on the open market.
“The DoE has lagged behind best planning policy practise for some years. We have seen this on issues like sustainability and out-of-town shopping. Now that the Dales National Park has blazed a trail, it is time for a Planning Policy Statement on homes for local people in Northern Ireland.
“Let’s not waste another ten years for the whole of England to take action first.”