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Planning Permission in the Countryside - Policy Finally Published

The long awaited policy on planning in the countryside has now been published. Minister for the Environment Edwin Poots launched Planning Policy Statement 21 on 1 June 2010 - it replaces the draft policy which has been in place since November 2008. 

Key policy changes include:

  • the introduction of a new policy: 'New Dwellings in Existing Clusters'. Planning permission will be granted for new dwellings at an existing cluster of development where: the cluster lies outside of a farm and if it consists of four or more buildings; it appears as a visual entity; at identified focal points (such as a church or a school); integrates into the existing landscape and will not have an adverse impact on residential amenity;
  • a new criterion which states that planning permission for farm diversification proposals will only be granted in conjunction with existing policy if it can be demonstrated that the business is currently active and established;
  • a new criterion for houses on farms regarding permission to develop on an alternative site where there are demonstrable health and safety reasons or verifiable plans to expand the farm; and
  • a definition of 'active farming', 'curtilage' and 'built up frontage'.

Planning Service is holding over 2,400 applications which would have been refused under draft PPS 21. All of these will now be re-assessed under PPS21 and decisions will be issued as soon as possible. PPS 21 is available to download from and from local Divisional Planning Offices. If you would like any advice on any aspect of the new policy please contact Claire, Elaine or Louise at Community Places (telephone 9023 9444). Click here to download our Factsheet on PPS 21. 

8 June 2010

Lottery Funding to Improve Energy Efficiency in Community Venues

The Big Lottery Fund launched its Energy Efficient Venues Programme on 19 May 2010. It will run for two years and will provide funding for groups to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and other venues. Two sizes of grant are available - one from £2,000 to £10,000 and another from £15,000 to £50,000 - and groups can use the funding for a range of energy efficiency measures from installing double glazing, replacing inefficient heating systems and draught-proofing to installing renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and biomass heating. 

Community Places has been appointed by the Big Lottery to provide technical information, support and advice to groups. We will give advice on energy efficiency measures; planning permission and building control processes; accessibility and sustainable development; and tendering for contractors and installers. We will also guide groups through undertaking an Energy Audit (which is a requirement of the larger grant application process). 

View our Energy Efficient Venues webpage.

24 May 2010

Planning Reform - Community Lobby Successes

The Department of the Environment has issued its decisions on the future shape of planning in the region. Community lobbying by members of Community Places has been successful in: 

  • protecting everyone's right to be heard at public inquiries on planning issues;
  • winning the legal right for communities to be consulted on major developments before planning applications are submitted;
  • securing a statutory link between Community Plans and Area Plans;
  • gaining acceptance of the need for Development Plans to support both social and sustainable development, assist in tackling disadvantage and poverty and promoting inclusion and equality.

Two other major issues have been recognised as needing further consideration in the future. These are: Third Party Right of Appeal (which was supported by 59% of responses) and Community Infrastructure Levy (developers' contributions) which was supported by 90% of community and voluntary groups and 43% of business and development responses. The full report is available on Planning Service's website and further details on the community issues are available from Community Places. 

31 March 2010

£500,000 Bonus Payments to Planning Service Staff

The Belfast Telegraph has reported that nearly £500,000 in 'bonus payments' were made to Planning Service staff. The paper says the figures were obtained by it under a Freedom of Information request and comments that "they are particularly disturbing becuase some civil servants were paid huge bonuses despite a series of high-profile failures".

The paper also notes that the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee found the planning system "not fit for purpose" and that only one out of six Divisional Planning Offices - that based in Omagh - met all its targets for processing applications. According to the paper the Public Accounts Committee found that customer satisfaction levels with the Planning Service had deteriorated from 76% to 32% in the last decade.

Read more on the paper's website.

29 March 2010

Policy for Rathlin

Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, today announced that the Executive has introduced a policy for Rathlin Island. This comes as very welcome news to Rathlin Development and Community Association which has lobbied long and hard for a policy specific to the island.

The purpose of the policy is to develop a vibrant healthy island community and increase the involvement of islanders in the development of policies and projects which improve conditions for all of the people of the island while also protecting its environment. The policy has the strategic aims of:

  • enhancing community involvement;
  • improving the provision of public services for islanders;
  • advancing policies for a sustainable island community; and
  • conserving the Island's exceptional environmental heritage.

In announcing the policy, the Minister said: "It is only right that islanders receive access to public services that the rest of us often take for granted and the policy will seek to improve the conditions of all people on the island while also protecting its natural and cultural heritage".

2 March 2010