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Planning policy further evidence of centralisation agenda

21 April, 2006

Sinn Fein Agriculture and Rural Development Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that British direct rule proposals on rural planning are further evidence of the creeping agenda of centralisation.

Ms Gildernew said:

"There is real concern that the agenda behind these rural planning proposals has nothing to do with the protection of our countryside or supporting vibrant and sustainable rural communities and everything to do with the agenda of creeping centralisation.

„For decades civil servants, direct rule British ministers and unionists skewed resources away from the rural West towards the East. Examples include the M1, the Ulster University Colraine Campus and the Golden Six Hospital agenda.

"It was an agenda underpinned by a very clear political agenda. It was discrimination and it still goes on today. The scandal of the latest Invest NI figures, the re-emergence of the Golden Six Agenda all provide evidence that the political will to provide balanced regional development is not there.

"Unless there is a radical rethink on these draft rural planning proposals there will be further centralisation. The outworking of this approach will make it harder for young people and young families to continue to live in rural areas and this will have a knock on effect on schools, the rural economy and the rural way of life.

"Already there is chaos around planning in our towns and villages and huge problems created by the reduction in development zones that are compounded by private developers and speculators sitting on land banks set aside for housing.

"An inconsistent response by Planning Services has made the situation much worse and allowed the development of some very ugly buildings in rural areas. But this does not mean that we should put a blanket ban on rural building it means that we should put in place effective guidelines and enforcement that outlaw bungalow blight and reckless profiteering.

"What is required is a rural planning policy that recognises the value of the rural way of life to Irish society and that supports rural communities and the sustainable management of the countryside."ENDS

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