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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 19:27 GMT
New rural planning rules proposed
Home in the country
The building of single homes in the countryside has been restricted
The assembly has debated proposals to ease restrictions on building in Northern Ireland's countryside.

The Environment Minister, Arlene Foster, put forward a number of measures which could eventually replace PPS 14, which restricts rural housing.

The proposals include more flexibility with regards to replacement dwellings/buildings, and greater scope for affordable and social housing.

Also mooted was a hardship test if someone could not live on a given site.

The possibility of small groups of houses if they are deemed "appropriate" is also to be looked into.

Mrs Foster said : "I know that many feel that they have very solid reasons for wanting to build in rural areas. My aim is to develop a policy based on the principles of sustainability.

"That means striking a balance between the need to protect our countryside from unnecessary development and the need to support our rural communities, allowing them to flourish, socially and economically."

Status quo

The Green Party's Brian Wilson, an MLA for North Down, told assembly members that current planning restrictions should not be interfered with.

"The campaign against PPS 14 is not only misleading, but it is short-sighted and will lead to the destruction of our countryside," he said.

"It will also restrict the development of our tourist industry, which is the fastest growing sector of our economy."

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