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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
Protest over rural planning move
The protest was over changes to rural planning laws
A street in Belfast city centre was blocked briefly on Friday as part of a protest against rural planning moves.

Sinn Fein protesters stopped traffic on Adelaide street, close to the Department for Rural Development.

They were protesting against the draft proposals on rural planning published by NIO minister Jeff Rooker last March.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew said the decision will disrupt the fabric of rural living and communities across Northern Ireland.

"The problems have been created by weak, ineffective and inconsistent planning and unscrupulous property developers not people living in rural communities.

"It is wrong to punish rural communities for bad planning laws and implementation by planning services," the MP said.

In March, the government announced almost all new plans for single rural dwellings would no longer be considered.

Lord Rooker said that the measures were designed to save the countryside.

Last Tuesday, a firm of architects applied for judicial review of the planning policy extending green belt restrictions across all rural areas.


Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionists and the Alliance Party have made submissions to the consultation process on the issue.

The UUP's Tom Elliot said the government's proposals had been "fundamentally undermined" by the failure to secure the consent of rural communities.

"Our rural environment and our rural communities are a vital part of the fabric of Northern Ireland life - that is why planning policy must carefully control developments that impact on both.

"For example, it is essential that planning allows for farming families to build family dwellings on their property," Mr Elliot said.

Alliance Party leader David Ford said while his party welcomed planning reform the real source of the threat had to be identified.

"The problem is primarily the excessive number of people with no rural roots moving to the countryside into new or renovated properties which are not in keeping with the surrounding area," he said.

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06 Jun 06 |  Northern Ireland
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