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Sinn Féin urge Minister to rethink draft rural planning guidelines

5 June, 2006

A Sinn Féin delegation led by West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff and North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan and Magherafelt councillor Sean McPeake have met with the British direct rule Minister responsible for rural planning, David Cairns today, Monday 5th June, at Stormont to discuss the way forward on rural planning and the consultation on PPS 14.

Speaking after the meeting Mr McElduff said:

"David Cairns knows that there is very wide opposition to the approach of British direct rule ministers to rural planning. Across the political spectrum and through many of the key rural stakeholders including the GAA, the Ulster Farmers Union, the Rural Development Council and the Rural Community Network there is agreement that PPS 14 is unworkable and will damage the fabric of our rural communities.

"What is important now is that we plot a way forward that both protects the environment and protects the future of our rural communities.

Mr McGuigan added:

"Sinn Féin have engaged in a far ranging consultation involving seven public meetings, the publication of 50,000 leaflets that people can use to directly respond to the consultation and meetings with a wide range of rural interests including Friends of the Earth. We believe that we have found a way to move beyond the impasse. It is now up to British direct rule ministers to recognise the way forward.

"There are at least four areas where there must be progress:
· Farm viability
· Rural villages & village renewal
· Derelict dwellings
· The traditional way of life & sustainability

"If we had local ministers, accountable to local people, in charge then we could be certain that the voice of people living in rural communities would not be ignored. Direct rule needs to listen to the people who have the experience and expertise on the ground to make good decisions."

Cllr McPeake concluded:

"The consultation closes on Friday (June 9th) and it is essential that everyone makes their voice heard. These draft plans will hurt our rural communities and undermine the long-term viability of rural communities. These plans will particularly force young people and young families out of rural communities." ENDS

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