Planning Portal

Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland
Regional Planning Policies: Policy HOU 4 Housing Need

Policy HOU 4 Housing Need
This policy has been superseded by: PPS 12-Housing in Settlements
To facilitate the adequate provision of a range of house types to meet the housing needs of the community.
Housing need varies by dwelling size, type and tenure, according to family needs, housing unfitness, household size, age, health, personal preference and financial circumstances. Of particular importance are the specialist needs of certain groups in society. The most significant of these groups is households on low incomes, the elderly, those suffering from mental and physical disabilities, the homeless and travelling people.
It is possible to have sufficient houses to accommodate the total population in an area but a mismatch between the accommodation and the specific requirements of households. There are particular difficulties in securing an adequate supply of affordable housing for local needs, even though such housing may help to secure the
viability of the local community.
On larger housing sites in settlements, planning policy will encourage the provision of a range of house types, to meet the needs of the community and provide variety and choice. It will normally be inappropriate to identify and allocate particular sites for low-cost housing in the development plan.
The mix of house types in a housing development proposal may be regulated, where a specific need has been identified, land supply is constrained, or where required by site conditions and environmental considerations.
Plans may include policies on the densities of new housing in particular areas to ensure a mix of provision within a settlement or sector of a town, or to protect environmental quality. Such policies, if used, will be aimed at providing reasonable flexibility and meeting a specific problem.


Housing unfitness is a key element of housing need and it is met by renewal of the housing stock, by renovation, replacement and new build. While rural housing unfitness has fallen it still represents approximately 17% of the total rural housing stock.
Many of the houses in the rural area are old, lack basic amenities and are vacant or have been abandoned. They represent the bulk of Northern Ireland's traditional architecture. However, research shows that, in the main, their owners have little intention of bringing them back to productive use as dwellings and are more likely to consider abandonment or replacement.
The Housing Executive has designated certain areas of very high localised unfitness as Rural Priority Areas within which an intensive grants marketing drive has commenced. The Department welcomes this approach and in general would encourage the sensitive restoration and renovation of existing traditional buildings, rather than their abandonment or replacement. While there is a presumption in favour of house improvements and flexibility to enable the provision of modern facilities, the basic character of the property should be maintained.
The Department supports the Housing Executive policy of improvement, where the improvements can be carried out at reasonable cost. There will however be cases where replacement is the only practical option. Planning policy will be exercised to give favourable consideration to replacement housing proposals designed to deal with rural housing unfitness. However, in Green Belts and Countryside Policy Areas (CPAs), such proposals must meet certain planning criteria as set out in Policy HOU 13. While the Department will encourage the re-use of existing buildings and the use of mature sites, outside Green Belts and CPA's it is for the applicant or owner to decide whether to renovate, replace or build on a new site. In such situations, an application to build a new house on a new site is subject only to normal planning and environmental considerations.

Care in the Community

The Government has been promoting the provision of care in the community. This has meant the provision of a range of accommodation, enabling people to return to a home environment.
Residential facilities provided by public, private and voluntary bodies include shared homes, sheltered accommodation and independent flats with other forms of support. Planning policy will facilitate the special housing requirements of people in need of help or supervision. Permission will be granted for the range of special residential facilities in urban areas, subject to certain criteria.
A residential or nursing home will normally be permitted in a residential area provided there are no convincing objections on traffic or amenity grounds. Planning permission will only be granted for residential or nursing homes in the countryside in exceptional circumstances where they will not place additional demands on essential services. The relevant considerations are whether there is a need to locate in the countryside and the potential impact of the development on the environment.
Residential and nursing homes are effectively controlled through the Department of Health and Social Services registration system. The main consideration of the planning system is impact on amenity and the environment. Detailed guidance is given in Development Control Advice Note 9 - Residential and Nursing Homes.
When drawing up development plans and determining planning applications, the Department will take account of the accommodation needs of the traditional Travelling community. Development plans may identify locations suitable for Travellers' sites or set out criteria for site selection. The Department will aim to secure an adequate provision of Travellers' sites with appropriate facilities, whilst protecting amenity for the community as a whole. Sites will be selected after consultation with the local Travelling population in association with the Advisory Committee on Travellers (ACT) and the local community.
Sites may be located outside existing settlements but should lie within a reasonable distance of shops, hospitals and schools and must be consistent with Green Belt and CPA policies, if relevant, as well as normal planning and environmental considerations. Sites on the periphery of built-up areas may be appropriate but care must be taken to avoid visual encroachment on the open countryside. Substantial natural screening may be particularly appropriate in these locations.
The detailed design requirements for permanent residential sites for Travelling people are given in a Design Guide prepared by the Department in consultation with the Advisory Committee on Travellers.
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