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Questions raised over change to Emerging Findings on PPS 14 by Boylan

6 March, 2008

Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan, who is the Vice Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee, has raised questions with Environment Minister Arlene Foster, about a significant change which was added to the final draft of the Emerging Findings on PPS 14 presented to the Committee from the briefing which she brought to the chamber for debate.

His concerns centre on a completely new paragraph, number 16, which reads,

'The issues related to farms and farming are discussed later in this paper. Stakeholders have raised issues about also catering for non-farming rural dwellers, and the idea of a mechanism being used to determine the contribution of non-farming rural dwellers to rural communities and their need to live in the open countryside has been discussed. It is, however, the view of some Ministers that it would be difficult to cater for the needs of non farming rural dwellers without leading to overdevelopment in the countryside.'

Mr Boylan said:

"I find this paragraph totally unacceptable. The majority of rural dwellers are not from the farming community, if this point inserted in the document is implemented, it will affect thousands of people from rural communities who wish to continue living in the countryside.

"I have asked the Minister to clarify which other Ministers from the Executive subgroup were aware of this paragraph being inserted and which particular Ministers believed '…it would be difficult to cater for the needs of non-farming rural dwellers…'. The policy oj rural planning is not being put together just for the farming community - but for all those who live in the countryside.

"I have been in consultation with party colleagues in a dedicated subgroup to review and respond to these emerging findings, what is becoming clear is that there is no 'one size fits all' answer to this. What may be a good policy for one area in the North may not be a good policy for another area.

"There is also a need to review the current Draft Area Plans, which many agree are a mess and are contributing to the chaos in rural planning.

"Presumption for planning should be neutral, neither for nor against, with each application treated on merit, local need has to be addressed and a settlement strategy needs to be at the core of any new rural planning policy." ENDS

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