Northern Ireland Planning Service

Arlene Foster Stands Firm on Rural Planning

Published on Thu, 25 Oct 2007
Environment Minister Arlene Foster reacted today to Mr Justice Gillen’s decision on remedies in relation to rural planning policy draft PPS14.
The Minister said, “In light of this morning’s judgement I have made a Statement to the Assembly indicating that my Department, with the agreement of the Minister for Regional Development,  is now assuming responsibility for rural planning policy.  I will Chair the Executive Subcommittee charged with reviewing rural planning.”
“It is my clear view that this review will be focussed and short in timescale. Until then the Planning Service cannot operate in a policy vacuum and speculative development is still a real threat to our countryside.
“The extent of this threat is demonstrated by the fact that approximately 4,500 draft PPS 14 applications were received after 16 March 2006, and up to early September 2007. Following the judgement Mr. Justice Gillen gave on 7 September 2007 a further 1900 applications for single dwellings in the countryside have been received. Most of these are in Omagh Division, including Fermanagh, where almost 1200 had been received by the end of September. That is why I indicated in my Statement that I consider it prudent to reissue the policy provisions of draft PPS14 and to continue to apply them to planning applications received after 16 March 2006 until we have completed our review and developed new policies.  I will publish a new draft PPS 14 within 6 months and this will be followed by a period of consultation”.
Arlene Foster said it was her aim is to develop a policy based on the principles of sustainability that strikes a balance between the need to protect the countryside from unnecessary development and the need to allow rural communities to flourish socially and economically.  “We will consider a wide range of issues and consult the public before making final decisions,” the Minister added.
Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy’s proposal to establish a Subcommittee to review rural planning was agreed by the Executive in July.  He started the review process by meeting a range of stakeholders and he will continue to be part of the process.
Conor Murphy said today “Our focus should be on developing a more balanced rural policy that better addresses the needs of our rural communities without threatening our countryside.  Prior to devolution all parties on the Preparation for Government Committee agreed by consensus that draft PPS14 should be subjected to a fundamental review and new policies developed.  This is what we are doing.”
The Environment Minister acknowledged that some people may have submitted applications between the court hearing on September 7 and today in the belief that draft PPS14 had already been quashed.  If so, she has decided that they should be offered the opportunity to have their application and fee returned.  Planning Service officials will be writing to those concerned.  The Minister stressed, however, that this was a wholly exceptional response to an unusual set of circumstances.

Notes To Editors:

  1. Both the Minister’s Statement and the reissued policy provisions of Draft PPS 14 have been made under the powers conferred by Article 3 of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.
  2. Both documents are available on this website or from DOE’s Planning and Environmental Policy Group, River House, 48 High Street, Belfast BT1 2AW.
  3. For media enquiries contact DOE Press Office on 028 9054 0003.  Out of office hours contact the EIS Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440.
Note
Draft PPS 14 was withdrawn in November 2008. Draft PPS 21 (Opens PDF document in a new browser window 345 KB) sets out the new planning policies for development in the countryside.

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