New countryside planning policy approved

Image caption,
The policy statement was published by Edwin Poots

Environment Minister Edwin Poots has published a new planning policy statement related to development in the countryside.

The new PPS21 was approved by the Executive last week.

A previous policy statement introduced by former NIO minister Lord Rooker was criticised by some politicians as a blanket ban on rural development.

The new PPS21 allows for what is called "rounding off or consolidation of clusters of development".

These are defined as "existing clusters of at least four buildings which have developed around focal points like churches or at crossroads".

The minister said it "makes good sense to allow new dwellings at these clusters".

The new PPS21 also defines a ribbon of development in the countryside as having a minimum of three buildings - rather than six buildings as has been the practice to date.

Most assembly members welcomed the new policy.

However, Green Party MLA Brian Wilson expressed disappointment at what he described as a "charter for developers and speculators".

"Our beautiful countryside, which is a major tourism attraction, will be destroyed," Mr Wilson said.

"The potential for the development of our tourism sector will be greatly reduced."