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Independent Working Group key part of progress on rural planning

21 November, 2008 - by Cathal Boylan

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Planning, Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan has welcomed the long awaited proposals on a new rural planning policy, stating that it is long overdue.

Mr Boylan said;

"Sinn Féin has always been in favour of a fair and equitable planning system and believes that this new draft policy goes some way in addressing the void that existed in the old draft policy PPS 14.

"These new proposals can bring some equity back to rural dwellers. The new draft PPS21 includes many measures which will provide additional opportunities for rural dwellers to obtain planning approval.

"These include a relaxation of the replacement dwelling criteria including the removal of the current 'abandonment test', removal of agricultural need and the farm viability test with opportunities for additional dwellings on farms, more potential for `infill `gap sites, replacement or conversion of traditional style farm buildings to dwellings, the reinstatement of Health and Personal circumstances and the reinstatement of Dispersed Rural Communities.

"These are very welcome changes, but clearly there continues to be a gap which must be addressed.

"Sinn Fein has lobbied continuously on behalf of the non farming rural dweller and we believe that a mechanism can be devised through the work of an Independent group to provide planning approval opportunities for this important sector of the community.

The Assembly member welcomed the establishment of an Independent Working Group to specifically look at the issue of the 'Non Farming Rural Dweller. He added:

"It is widely believed that there are significant numbers in this sector, and if we are to achieve a balanced and equitable policy that will ensure the sustainability of our existing rural communities and rural economy, development opportunities for these people must be included." ENDS

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