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Rural Planning (PPS 21) – Independent Working Group begins work

3 February, 2009

The first meeting of an Independent Working Group which will explore options for non-farming rural dwellers under the draft planning policy PPS21 took place at Stormont today.

Executive ministers welcomed the inaugural meeting of the group, which is chaired by Jim McKinnon, Chief Planner for Scotland, and involves experts from the fields of planning, the environment, rural development and legal profession

Its members are Patrick Casement, Martin McDonald, Bill Morrison and Seamus Caulfield.

The group met ministers who had been involved in the review of rural planning policy which resulted in draft PPS 21 announced by Environment Minister Sammy Wilson in November.

Mr Wilson, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew, Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy and Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister junior ministers Jeffrey Donaldson and Gerry Kelly wished the group well as it embarked on its work.

Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew said:

"The issue of non-farming rural dwellers is a vital one. As ministers we recognise that this issue needs to be resolved and a solution found. There are different options and views and we have discussed these together round the table. The Independent Working Group has a vital job to do to advise us and I look forward to seeing its report.

The Group will examine rural planning policies across Britain and Ireland, the outcome of the draft PPS21 consultation and domestic and EU law.

The Independent Working Group will report at the end of June.

Note to Editors

1. Environment Minister Sammy Wilson published draft PPS21 "Sustainable Development in the Countryside" with immediate effect and for consultation on 25 November 2008. To help people contribute to the consultation, DOE is hosting information days in various rural locations until 28 February. Consultation closes on 31 March 2009.

2. Draft PPS21 is the outcome of a review undertaken by an Executive Subcommittee chaired by the previous Environment Minister, Arlene Foster and on which Jeffrey Donaldson, Michelle Gildernew. Gerry Kelly, Conor Murphy and Margaret Ritchie served.

3. Draft PPS 21 replaces draft PPS14 which was introduced under Direct Rule and which imposed a presumption against development outside settlements right across the North of Ireland.

4. Draft PPS21 aims to balance the needs of rural communities with the need to protect the environment, it includes:

*The reinstatement of Dispersed Rural Communities *Greater opportunity for the replacement of dwellings *New policy for the reuse or replacement of non-residential buildings as dwellings *An enhanced policy on social and affordable housing *The reintroduction of a policy for a dwelling to meet compelling personal or domestic circumstances *Policy on farm dwellings and farm diversification are brought into line with current agriculture and rural development policy.

5. Draft PPS21 applies outside settlements across the North of Ireland except in Special Countryside Areas. These are exceptional landscapes, such as the High Mournes, stretches of the coast or lough shores, and certain views or vistas, wherein the quality of the landscape and unique amenity value is such that development should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances

6. Draft PPS21 and the Statement Sammy Wilson made in the Assembly on November 25 can be viewed online at the Planning Service Website or obtained from Draft PPS21 Consultation on 028 9025 4724

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