New Rural Planning Policy must allow for sustainable communities
Sinn Féin Newry Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, Deputy Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee, has said that Arlene Foster's report on the 'Emerging Findings' of the review into PPS 14 on Rural Planning shows progress away from the totally restrictive position of the 'presumption against' planning in rural areas.
Mr Boylan said:
"When Jeff Rooker introduced the draconian PPS 14 guidelines on Rural Planning Sinn Fein mounted a successful campaign, working with many local rural organisations, against the blanket ban of new homes in rural areas. We argued for a balanced policy that can underpin and support sustainable rural communities while also protecting the environment. It is clear that Sinn Féin has had a positive impact on the shape of these emerging findings.
"Overall the document sets out movement in a positive direction towards a proper Rural Planning Policy. Sinn Féin welcome these positive moves forward, but at this stage we the Minister should have been in a position to set out greater detail.
"This is the start of the process with consultation over the coming weeks. We want everyone who has a stake in the future of our rural communities to make their voices heard. However, I am concerned at the apparent cosmetic nature of Community Technical Aid proposed discussions with Rural Communities. The time of meetings and the geographic spread is simply not good enough.
"While the new draft policy will be published at the end of April I know that there are many people in rural areas, particularly young families are unsure whether this will now be used as a policy throughout the consultation process.
There are a number of specific issues that also need fuller examination. For example, while Sinn Féin welcome the recognition of the need for localised policies to reflect local needs, we do not believe that the best vehicle is the Area Plan. I also believe that we need to look at the realities facing not just the smaller farming family but on the needs of everyone who lives and works within our rural communities." ENDS