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Anger at Banbridge - Newry Mourne Area Plan

22 August, 2006

Sinn Féin Newry Armagh MP Conor Murphy has said that the Area Plan for Banbridge and Newry and Mourne published today by the Department of the Environment that will set the limits on how the area will develop for the next nine years is a 'disaster waiting to happen'.

Mr Murphy said:

"Everyone wants to see balanced development that allows our rural communities and our towns and villages to flourish while at the same time protecting and safeguarding the immense natural resources that we have in this area.

"However, there are very serious problems with what the department has published. Newry and Mourne Council brought in experts and made a number of recommendations in relation to the draft plan, yet these have been totally ignored.

"There is no real recognition of local circumstances or the pressure on housing that is seeing prices go through the roof. Land for housing is being de-zoned, often in the middle of the planning process and we are also seeing land that is zoned for housing in the new plan that will never come onto market. This means that the limits in the plan are totally meaningless. It is problem that would have been easily sorted out if planners had engaged with the local community and listened to the local council.

"Taken in tandem with the proposed moratorium on rural housing in PPS14 that would mean that only building within settlements was permissible, the reality is that there is not enough zoned land within these limits to meet demand.

"This is an area that will be at the heart of development over the next decade, particularly as the border becomes increasingly meaningless. Yet the Area Plan would suggest an annual limit of something like 800 new homes across the area.

"In many ways this is a disaster waiting to happen. What we need to a sensible approach that allows the local communities to grow. We do not need a plan that halts that growth." ENDS

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