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Last Updated: Friday, 7 September 2007, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
New rural home ban ruled unlawful
Home in the country
The building of single homes in the countryside is restricted
A ban on building new homes in rural areas of Northern Ireland has been overturned in the High Court.

Judge Mr Justice Gillen quashed a decision by former Stormont minister Lord Rooker on planning regulation PPS 14, declaring it to be unlawful.

Omagh District Council had sought the judicial review, arguing there had been no effective consultation.

Hundreds of planning decisions made since the regulation came into force in March 2006 may now be appealed.

Direct rule minister Lord Rooker introduced the controversial measure in response to a surge in planning applications for new dwellings in rural areas.

PPS 14 was detrimental to rural communities and fundamentally at odds with sustainable rural development
Bert Wilson
Omagh District Council
In a ten-year period, such applications had risen from 1,845 in 1994/95 to 9,520 by 2004/05.

The move angered the farming community who claimed a ban on building a home for relatives would drive them from the land.

But it was welcomed by environmentalists such as Friends of the Earth, which claimed rural areas had to be protected from over-development, often referred to as "bungalow blight."

Welcoming Friday's ruling, Omagh District Council chairman Bert Wilson insisted that they did not want it to lead to a "planning free-for-all".

He said that PPS 14 was "detrimental to rural communities and fundamentally at odds with sustainable rural development".

Mr Wilson said they wanted planning based on local development plans proposed by councils.

The action was also backed by Armagh, Coleraine, Cookstown, Moyle and Strabane councils.

'Remains in force'

Cookstown District Council said it welcomed the judgement.

Chairman, councillor Ian McCrea, said: "Hopefully we can now look forward to the development of a rural planning policy which will meet the needs of rural communities and in particular the needs of the Mid Ulster rural community."

John Woods of Friends of the Earth said: "As this debate continues, it is important that the agenda is not set just by rural landowners and property developers.

"The countryside is central to our social, cultural and environmental heritage and we all have a stake in it whether we are from urban or rural backgrounds."

He added: "The government now needs to find a legal means of ensuring PPS 14 remains in force pending its own review of the policy."

Meanwhile, a major development plan has also been challenged successfully by a judicial review.

The Northern Area Plan 2015, which sets out where roads and houses will be built in the future, was challenged by a property development company called Seaport.

They had claimed the plan, which includes North Antrim, Coleraine and Limavady, was unlawful.

The High Court has ruled that the plan failed to meet a European Directive.

The Department of Environment said it wanted time to consider the judgement and its implications.




SEE ALSO
Rural planning law 'devastating'
21 May 07 |  Northern Ireland
Protest over rural planning move
09 Jun 06 |  Northern Ireland
Rural planning group to be set up
23 May 06 |  Northern Ireland
Rural building a 'landscape acne'
12 Apr 06 |  Northern Ireland
Crackdown on rural house building
16 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland

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