11 Aug 2022

County Derry planning concerns raised at Assembly

Mid Ulster MLA Emma Sheerin has raised the matter in Stormont.

County Derry planning concerns raised at Assembly

A County Derry MLA has raised concerns shared by local constituents over rural housing at the NI Assembly.

Mid Ulster MLA Emma Sheerin has tabled a 'member's statement' in the Assembly chamber this week relating to guidance issued by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) on planning permission in rural areas.

The Sinn Féin MLA is adding to a call from Mid Ulster District Council's Planning Committee for DfI to withdraw the advice.

"Since the note was issued in the beginning of the summer, we have been inundated with calls from planning agents, farming families, and young rural dwellers, all in a state of worry about what this will mean for their intentions to build homes in their local areas," she said.

"Housing provision across the north is a huge issue. Demand is outweighing supply, leaving many people trapped in rented accommodation, paying well over the odds, and unable to plan for their futures as a result.

"Lots of young people from rural areas have plans to build ‘forever homes’ near where they grew up themselves, with the support of family nearby and in a community that they feel a part of, and will spend time renting in our towns and villages before they can afford to build. 

"Accessing planning permission can be a costly, time-consuming, and stressful process as I know from the number of constituents who contact myself and our council team for help with their applications.

"The outcry has been such that the Sinn Féin team in Mid Ulster Council requested a special planning meeting to discuss this issue and chart a way forward.

"In effect, this advice leaves planning permission harder to attain than it already is, meaning that the time and money spent will both accumulate for prospective builders.

"This is yet another barrier for rural dwellers, who already find themselves with the short end of the stick when it comes to infrastructure and service provision. 

"To limit the ability to build a home in your community is a denial of rights, and this needs to be urgently rescinded by the minister," she added.

Earlier this year, the Department said the new planning advice did not change policy.

"This PAN provides advice which councils, as planning authorities in their own right, will take into account in plan-making and decision-taking, along with all other material planning considerations," said Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon.

GUEST COLUMN: Council can stand up for people of Mid Ulster region

Liam Ward from Ward Design in Castledawson comments on a new planning document which could help shape the future development of local areas.

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