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Council urges Minister to change planning rules amid concerns over new homes for rural areas

Legislation will have 'severe and far-reaching consequences' for communities

There had been a call for a  halt to new planning legislation which could prevent people being able to build homes in the country.

Mid Ulster District Council’s planning committee has urged the Infrastructure Minister to withdraw the advice which they say will have “severe and far-reaching” consequences for rural communities.

Chair and deputy chair of the committee, Councillors Kyle Black and Sean McPeake, have jointly written to Minister Nichola Mallon.

It follows a special meeting where it was agreed that the new advice on development in the countryside would also affect the council’s ability to make decisions on rural dwellings.

The issue centres on a new definition of buildings which can be taken into consideration when assessing a planning application for development on a farm.

It proposes that a group of buildings which include a house and domestic garage should not be included.

Said Councillor Black: “In Mid Ulster, the proportion of new dwellings allowed in the countryside is lower than the proportion of people living in the countryside.

“There is no need, therefore, to place any additional limitations on development in rural areas.

“In fact, I would argue that there is a need to explore policy to provide additional sustainable opportunities for Mid Ulster’s existing rural dwellers.

“This policy would effectively tie our hands when it comes to making decisions tailored to, and based on, the needs of local people, which is what the transfer of planning powers to local council was all about.”

 Councillor McPeake, said that while other councils may face pressures in terms of accommodating rural development, Mid Ulster has the capacity to absorb new dwellings.

“To address the issue with a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate, reasonable or fair,” he said.

“We are also concerned that the guidance could prejudice our ability to progress our Draft Local Development Plan which has been, rightly, developed to ensure that we take account of the very specific planning needs of our rural communities”.

The letter it the Minister details the committee’s objections and asks her to withdraw the planning advice guidance.

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