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Rural Planning - Sinn Féin meet senior planning officials

23 May, 2006

A delegation of Sinn Féin Assembly members led by party Agriculture and Rural Development Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew have meet with senior official from DRD and DoE to discuss concerns about the draft proposals on rural planning and the way forward.

The delegation included West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney, Newry Armagh MLA Pat O'Rawe, South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane, and East Derry MLA Francie Brolly.

Speaking after the meeting Ms Gildernew said:

"This is the second meeting we have had with planning officials. It is part of a wider campaign to ensure that we get planning guidelines that strike the right balance between protecting the environment and protecting rural communities.

"Sinn Féin raised our concerns with Peter Hain on Monday about how direct rule ministers are handling the issue of Rural Planning and gave him a substantive paper on our position. We will also be meeting the new DRD Minister next week and again in early June with the party's MPs to secure progress on the issue of rural planning

"We have also met with a number of rural stakeholders including the Rural Development Council, the Rural Community Network, the Ulster Council of the GAA, Friends of the Earth, and will meet the UFU on Friday.

"No-one disputes that the previous planning regulations needed to be dealt with because poor and inconsistent implementation was leading to bungalow blight, leading to unsustainable pressures on sewerage infrastructure and creating environmental damage.

"The approach of the Department of the Environment in terms of area plans that are restricting development in rural areas, including towns and villages, taken together with the DRD proposed blanket ban with PPS14 will lead to serious housing problems in housing areas and perpetuate economic and social problems.

"The solution is not to penalise rural communities but to bring in guidelines that support sustainable rural communities and mean that new builds are well integrated and meet tough environmental guidelines and are accompanied by investment in infrastructure to ensure people in rural communities are not treated as second class citizens." ENDS

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