The controversial planning law limiting building in the countryside, PPS 14, is to stay in place, despite being ruled unlawful by a High Court judge.
The law restricted the building of single homes in the countryside
Mr Justice Gillen ruled it was unlawful as it was introduced by the Department of Regional Development which did not have the power to do so.
However, the judge decided not to overturn the law.
Environment Minister Arlene Foster later told the assembly her department would now assume responsibility for it.
As a result, she said it would continue as present until it is changed in a review proposed for later this year.
This move had been anticipated after the High Court decision.
It is not clear yet what will happen to planning applications made in the period when PPS 14 was deemed to have been unlawful.
Some or all of them may get their fees returned.
PPS 14 was introduced by the direct rule miniser Lord Rooker last year.
The challenge against it was brought by Omagh District Council.
After Thursday's ruling, chairman Bert Wilson, said: "We have been fully vindicated in our decision to take this matter to court."
"Today's declaration that the introduction of PPS 14 was unlawful now provides the opportunity for the Executive to develop a planning policy appropriate to the needs of rural communities.
"I would urge that this opportunity is now grasped by ministers," Mr Wilson said.
He said he wanted to see all the planning applications which were "illegally" refused or withdrawn - believed to be close on 20,000 - reviewed as a matter of urgency.
However, Friends of the Earth said it was difficult to see what the challenge had achieved.
"The judge has not challenged the substance of PPS 14. He has simply decided that the wrong department drafted it," the group's John Woods said.
"There is a growing consensus that the rapid suburbanisation of Northern Ireland's countryside is in no-one's interest."
Last month the High Court made a similiar ruling on PPS 14. Thursday's ruling represents its final decision.