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Planning co-operation key to progressing Rural Development Projects - Doherty

1 July, 2008


Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has welcomed a commitment from Environment Minister Sammy Wilson that priority will be given to planning applications dependent on grant aid and other commercial, industrial and social infrastructure proposals saying that such an 'expedited approach' will be particularly essential if the full potential of the Rural Development Programme (2007-2013) is to be realised.

Pat Doherty, who is also Sinn Fein spokesperson Agriculture and Rural Affairs and a member of the Assembly's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee said,

"With the imminent roll of the Rural Development Programme, which will see an approximate £500 million invested in rural development projects such as farm diversification; microbusiness; tourism; access to basic services; village regeneration and built heritage, it will be essential to secure the full co-operation of the Planning Authorities to ensure that the full potential of the Programme is realised.

"There is concern among rural groups and stakeholders that the potential to advance projects under the Rural Development Programme could be frustrated because of major delays in the planning process.

"I therefore asked Environment Minister Sammy Wilson, in a written question, to ensure that planning applications linked to the Rural Development Programme will be expedited to achieve maximum uptake of funding.

"I now welcome his response that his Department will give priority to those planning application dependent on grant aid and other commercial, industrial and social infrastructure proposals with a clear strategic, employment, community or public interest dimension.

"However, considerable concern remains that this stated policy is not being equally applied across each Planning Division so I have now asked Sammy Wilson, in a supplementary question, to ensure that staff in each planning division are instructed to prioritize planning applications which are dependent on grant aid such as the Rural Development Programme." ENDS

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