Draft PPS14 Sustainable Development in the Countryside
CTY 1: Justification & Amplification
4.4 The countryside is a unique resource valued by all our citizens. It contains landscapes of considerable quality and amenity, important indications of our cultural heritage and is also significant in terms of nature conservation and biodiversity by providing habitats for wildlife, flora and fauna. It is a recreational resource and a considerable tourist asset. The countryside is also home to our agricultural industry and to a considerable and growing rural community.
4.5 However, while the countryside has traditionally contained a substantial number of individual houses and other buildings, significant concern has been expressed by many about development trends and the enhanced pressures being exerted on the countryside, particularly in view of the Government’s commitment to sustainable development.
4.6 In recent years there has been an accelerating pressure for development throughout the countryside, in particular single new dwellings. Between 2004 and 2006 over 14,000 planning approvals for new dwellings were granted7.
4.7 This rate of approval brings with it significant environmental, financial and social costs. It erodes the character and appearance of our landscape. In certain areas suburban type sprawl now dominates the rural scene. There is also habitat loss and fragmentation of agricultural land. There are increasing concerns about the impact of new development on water quality caused by the increased use of septic tanks. Nearly every journey is undertaken by car leading to increased traffic levels and pollution on rural roads. There are enhanced financial costs in relation to service provision – everything from school transport to improving drainage infrastructure.
4.8 The ongoing rate of approvals is also impacting on the vitality and sustainability of our towns and villages, creating unbalanced growth as greater numbers of people have chosen to live in the countryside.
4.9 When it was published the Regional Development Strategy acknowledged many of these concerns and indicated that difficult decisions would be required in relation to the control of single dwellings to protect against adverse cumulative impacts.
4.10 The continuation of current development trends in the countryside is now judged to represent a significant threat to the environment and therefore is considered to be unsustainable. For this reason stricter controls will now be exercised over new housing development throughout the countryside with a limited number of exceptions to meet the needs of the rural community including farmers.
4.11 At the same time it is important to the well-being of the rural community to continue to facilitate appropriate economic development opportunities in the countryside.
4.12 Agriculture continues to be of major importance to the economy of the rural area. With the restructuring of the industry ongoing in response to the continuing change to agricultural support measures by the European Union, agricultural diversification is likely to increase in importance as a means of maintaining or increasing farm income and employment. The planning system will therefore continue to sympathetically view appropriate agricultural diversification schemes.
4.13 Opportunities also exist for tourism growth, particularly through the sympathetic conversion or re-use of existing buildings in the countryside. Exceptionally, new build accommodation may also be acceptable.
4.14 Appropriate industrial and commercial enterprises, including minerals development and necessary infrastructure will be facilitated, as well as proposals for new community buildings and uses where these meet local needs.
4.15 There is scope for the re-use and adaptation of existing buildings in the countryside for a range of uses, including appropriate industrial, tourism and recreational uses or community facilities. Retailing, unless small scale and ancillary to the main use, will not however be considered acceptable.
4.16 There are some areas of countryside with exceptional landscapes, such as the High Mournes, stretches of the coast or lough shores, and certain views or vistas, wherein the quality of the landscape and unique amenity value is such that development should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances. These areas will be designated as Special Countryside Areas in development plans and local policies brought forward to protect their unique qualities.
7 These figures are based on the best available current information and are subject to ongoing validation by Planning Service.