Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Rural Communities have a right to demand support for Rural Regeneration

3 January, 2008

Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, who is the party spokesperson on rural planning, speaking at a recent annual constituency conference has said that people from rural communities have a right to live in their rural areas and a right to demand that Government policy supports rural regeneration and sustainable rural development.

Mr Boylan said:

"It is only by people living in rural communities that those communities can be made sustainable. Young people and families create a need for services - particularly schools and transport links - and for rural businesses, making these more economically viable. Therefore, we need to actively support young people in making their home in rural communities.

"Rural people must also be allowed to come together where land is available and to build homes cooperatively and in conjunction with the Housing Executive and Housing Associations. Sinn Féin is demanding that 30% of land within designated development limits should be zoned for social and affordable housing in rural areas. We also propose to address the problems created by property speculators who 'bank' planning permission and tie up land banks zoned for housing development.

"Many past problems is the result of poorly-planned density of housing, and a lack of social infrastructure including recreation and play facilities. Sinn Féin believe that the introduction of Community Planning (involving formal mechanisms for community participation in planning decision-making) would ensure that local people have a planning framework that best suits their area's needs while also conforming to high standards in relation to the protection of the environment, design and integration.

"This approach should also improve the fit of local services and the development of supporting infrastructure required for real rural community sustainability.

"Many people brought up in a rural community want to remain there, where they feel secure in the knowledge that they 'belong' in a community built upon strong family connections. However the increasing cost of land and housing very often leaves rural people priced out of the rural housing market. Even where they have access to land on which to build a home, planning permission is frequently refused. Such people are often forced to move to the nearest town or to other urban centres. This not only further depopulates rural areas, it increases pressures on the urban housing stock.

"Sinn Féin have proposed the development, implementation and enforcement of a Guide for Rural House Design (as comprehensive as the Cork Rural Design Guide) that reflects the traditional rural style and also conforms with sustainability concerns and standards. We also want to encourage that the environmental foot print of rural houses is as small as possible." ENDS

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