Draft proposals for curbing rural development

Arguably on of the most important of the democratic deficits left unmanaged by the loss of the Assembly in October 2005 is planning law. The Department of Regional Development has put the cat amongst the pigeons with its Draft Policy Statement 14: Sustainable Development in the Countryside. It’s not going to be popular with rural dwellers, as there has been a tradition of families building on agricultural land. However the plan is being pitched as an opportunity to circumvent bungalow blight, and the attendant environmental impacts. However unpopular, there is undoubtedly a need for government to draw clear lines in planning if it’s not drop into some of the chaos there has been in the Republic.

  • páid

    well this is not a side issue! From what I can see Jeff Rooker has decided that NI gets way too many one-off houses compared to Britain and has decided to restrict on that basis. A local govt. might decide that NI has a different traditional settlement pattern from Warwickshire and rule accordingly. Many, including myself, despair at the environmental blight caused by one -off houses in the south.. but many people live where they want to live, amongst neighbours and family in their ancient territories. The member for Perry Barr says …go to town.

  • Young Fogey

    Over-restrictive planning laws + growing population = Lack of housing = Spiralling house prices = Second homes in France for comfortable bourgeois home-owners + Economic pain for the young, especially the young and poor

  • Stephen Copeland

    This is a debate that arouses emotion on both sides. Townies want an end to bungalow blight so that they can enjoy the ‘real countryside’ when they drive out into it (the irony of which appears lost on them), and country-dwellers want to be able to live where they want without townies telling them what to do.

    Although a country-dweller myself, I know that my gut reaction is that of a townie. I don’t want the countryside swallowed up by ribbon development and bungalows, but yet I cannot deny the rural argument that the countryside is not just a theme park for urban weekenders.

    It might be useful to look at two aspects, which may in turn be flip-sides of the same coin: one, why do rural people want to live in the country, and two, why do townies want the countryside as an ‘unspoiled retreat’?

    The answer to both questions may be the same. It may be that the problem lies not in the countryside, but in the towns. The answer may be that the towns are unpleasant places to live in, and to spend time in. If towns were vibrant and enjoyable places to live, maybe everyone (rural and urban) would be happy to live in them, and less likely to seek an escape from them. Maybe the problem is urban unpleasantness – traffic, noise, dirt, crowding, violence, impersonality, etc. Maybe if we tackled these, then the pressure on the countryside would ease?

    Compare some European countries, where it is distinctly preferable to live in the city than in the rural hinterland – Paris, for instance. People want to live in the city, not in the surrounding suburbs or countryside, because the city has it all. Barcelona is another example, and I’m sure there are dozens of others, both large and small. Unfortunately, for a wide variety of reasons, Ireland’s cities and towns are not particularly nice places. Even without the troubles, Belfast has much wrong with it, in terms of housing, urban design, roads, etc. Dublin is a better city, but is now unaffordable. Smaller towns are too often miserable holes, so it is no wonder that people want to stay in the peace and relative quiet of rural areas and villages, especially since you can drive into the towns easily to avail of the limited delights that they offer.

    The answer to bungalow blight might be to examine housing estate blight, and to learn from cities that work, wherever in Europe or the world they might be.

  • qubol

    This whole argument exposes the complete selfishness of some people. I don’t know if you heard some women from the SDLP on Talkback go on about how our ‘traditional’ pattern of settlement will be ruined and how some English minister is making our decisions blah blah blah. They can’t see that so many of the problems that exist in our society are caused by the high levels of single dwelling residence in the countryside. Take the arguments about centralising Major Trauma Services at the Royal, or our absolutely disgraceful Sewerage system, or our poor Public transport system or our poor roads……..the list goes on. On one hand we had politicians queuing up to condemn this decision but they still want all of the problems listed above remedied. It just won’t work, where will the money come from? Too often people in the North are all too keen to talk about their Rights without talking about their responsibilities. Like the responsibility to look after our environment.
    These people talk about how we have lived this way for years – but that is far from justification. We have been polluting the world for generations does that excuse it – hardly. Our countryside is one of our greatest natural resources and just because someone was lucky enough to grow in the countryside doesn’t mean they have the automatic right to build again.

  • slug

    Predictably we have a sectarian split on this idea with both nationalist parties opposed.

  • Crataegus

    Firstly I must confess I am laughing all the way to the Bank, sites I own will rise in value. Knew it was coming. However I think this is a bad mistake, it is not planning by policy and forward planning but planning by ministerial whim, it is lack of policy!!!!!!! It is reactionary.

    The effect that this will have on the rural economy will be considerable. Small developers, Architects and builders will be badly hit as will building suppliers, estate agents, solicitors, financial advisers and farmers. Rural populations will remain static and the pressure to develop around Belfast will increase. Unless we have a major rethink that would allow planned rural development local services in rural areas will become less viable. This is really bad news for the rural community for there is no coherent policy. I personally think that Jeff Rooker is on top of his brief.

    Another few points to bear in mind is that large scale development around our cities favours large developers who can afford to buy large swaths of rezoned land. Also it is these developments that have put strain on the sewerage infra structure. The one off houses can use bio disc treatment on site which are really quite good and certainly beats pumping crap into the Irish sea at Ballyholme.

    To compare NI to England is pretty stupid as in Britain generally there are more hamlets and villages in the countryside around which one can add or fill in. The pattern here is somewhat different. What we need is a policy that encourages developers to propose new groups of houses around existing transport links. Why should all our villages originate 200 years ago?

    The current bungalow blight was caused by planning policy and some rather woolly thinking with regards positioning and location of dwellings I would not wish to defend it but to swing to the other extreme is plain daft.

    Stephen

    The points you make regarding urban areas are pertinent. There are large areas in our towns and cities that are unattractive, areas with ridiculously low densities close to the centre of Belfast, unused parcels of land around road schemes etc. etc. Who would want to move into inner North or West Belfast ?

    In the long run fuel costs will start to have an impact on the demand for isolated rural housing my tip is realise the profit on rural sites and invest in Urban for although some of you disagree, I am of the opinion that there is a dire shortage of land available to build on. House and property prices will continue to increase.

  • Crataegus

    Sorry Above should read;

    I personally think that Jeff Rooker is NOT on top of his brief.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Rooker logic:

    A John Lewis store in the coutryside – a no brainer.

    A bungalow in the countryside – a no hoper.

  • qubol

    How can you call something that should of been done years ago reactionary? One thing that strikes me is that we have an awful lot of people telling us that ‘our pattern of settlement is different’ without supporting this. For example is there any evidence to suggest that the dispersed nature of housing in the countryside is an old phenomenon or have most of these single dwelling houses been built in the last say 80 years? I don’t have any stats either but it seems pretty obvious to me that many houses in the countryside are modern developments.

  • Stephen Copeland

    qubol,

    I don’t have any stats either but it seems pretty obvious to me that many houses in the countryside are modern developments.

    While many houses are recent, the pattern is as old as time. Take a look at old Ordinance Survey maps, especially the large-scale ones, and you’ll see that most houese are scattered around, and only a few are in clusters. It is a well documented fact that in Ireland settlement was dispersed, perhaps due to the naature of agriculture (cattle, sheep, etc, rather than crops which promote collectivism).

  • slug

    In the rest of the UK there was also, in earlier times, a tendency for people to live in the country more than today.

  • slug

    Another think I would disagree with is the idea that making towns nicer means people are less likely to want to go look at unspoilt countryside.

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    In the rest of the UK …

    England in particular had a more village-like pattern of settlement, partly becaause it depended more on the cultivation of crops. Look at the old maps and archaeological remains, including those of the Black Death abandonned villages. In that respect England was more ‘European’, while Ireland (and possibly Scotland?) were more Scandanaavian.

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    … making towns nicer means people are less likely to want to go look at unspoilt countryside.

    In most of the world people do not seek to go to the country-side just to escape the towns. If they go at all, it is for a specific reason – skiing, horse-riding, sailing, whatever. Where the towns are good places to live, people do want to live in them. Compare real-estate prices in Manhattan with those of Queens, for instance. Or Ville de Paris with Val de Marne. Or D4 with Naas.

    Where towns are unpleasant, people will avoid them. Hence compare real-estate prices in North Belfast with Templepatrick, or Shantallow with Culmore …

  • slug

    Templepatrick is a village, not countryside.

  • slug

    “why do townies want the countryside as an ‘unspoiled retreat’? The answer may be that the towns are unpleasant places to live in, and to spend time in.”

    I suspect this is BS of the highest order – i.e. the idea that folks who live in nice cities are less likely to care about despoilation of countryside.

    I and many I know have lived in some of the most beautiful cities on planet earth, yet we still want to go see unspoiled countryside.

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    Templepatrick is a village, not countryside

    I know.

    Queens is urban/suburban. Naas is a medium-sized town, and Val de Marne a whole region! I was simply giving examples of areas outside of the metropolis.

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    …yet we still want to go see unspoiled countryside.

    The issue is one of building in that unspoiled countryside, not just going to see it. To actually situate your whole life in an isolated area, away from shops, schools, hospitals, cafés, cinemas and theatres, is strange unless you are a farmer. If you chose to move your habitation to an area where you do not work, I think it is relevant to ask why. Traditionally cost was often the reason, but I don’t think that that is always the case. I think a lot of it is now urban flight. And that can be countered by making the towns more attractive places to live.

  • Crataegus

    Qubol

    “How can you call something that should of been done years ago reactionary?”

    The problem is it is not a coherent policy, you cannot plan by ministerial decree! It is simple jumping from one extreme to another without due consideration to either demand or consequence. It is typical of the current bunch of blow ins at Stormont.

    It is a long time since I had to look at settlement geography but from memory the main difference in settlement patterns in England, parts of Scotland and much of Wales and Ireland are due to;

    1 Political stability; Many towns and villages in England go back to Roman times and beyond.
    2 The feudal system meant that the landlord owned the land and the peasants who lived in the Lords village worked the land.
    3 The farms are generally larger and the NI part time farmer less common.
    4 More diverse agriculture than NI and slightly better climate.

    If we were to build houses on all the ruins in NI you would be truly surprised at how many people once lived in the countryside.

    Also we are over developing Greater Belfast and we need a policy to spread development more evenly across the 6 counties.

  • slug

    Stephen you seemed to posit the idea that folks who live in nice cities have a lesser desire to see unspoilt countryside than folks who live in ugly cities.

    Doesn’t stack up.

  • qubol

    OK Stephen – there certainly is a history but the point I should of said that this tradition isn’t exclusive to Ireland. Its simply that other parts of Europe experienced urbanisation to local/regional urban centres. For various reasons including the troubles, our geographic isolation and deliberate government policies our Urban centres didn’t experience the same levels of growth hence the abnormally low level of urbanisation in the last 80 years when compared to other EU countries. Rural living is not some exclusively Irish tradition but its just that other countries made the decision to cultivate their urban centres and limit rural growth. We on the other hand artificially supported our rural communities with policies like the one British Minster Rooker has just changed. Because we are 50 years late in taking the jump to does that mean this pattern of rural developments is somehow part of our national identity and tradition? Hardly.

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    I am simply saying that if the towns and cities are pleasant and ‘human’ places to live, and to rear your kids, you will on balance be less likely to seek to live in an isolated and impractical rural area. Belfast in general is not a pleasant and ‘human’ place, so I can well understand why some people prefer to build in the countryside. Where urban areas are safe, well-maintained, well-serviced, and provide all of the comforts we desire, then people aare happy to live in them. Compare the prices of comparable houses in Ballsbridge with Greystones …

    qubol,

    I can only state that if you were from the countryside, as many are, you would feel differently. There, issues of local and parish identity are very strongly woven into the tradition.

  • Young Fogey

    qubol

    How can you call something that should of been done years ago reactionary?

    I don’t know qubol – why should this have been done years ago? It’s not like, with a population density of 122 people/square km, that Northern Ireland’s countryside is overcrowded in the way that Bangladesh’s is, or indeed as the Irish countryside was until the famine. Sure, few country bungalows are going to win architecture prizes, but presumably they provide a pleasant living environment to the people who live in them (otherwise they wouldn’t build them) and therefore do some good for society/humanity.

    You seem to imply that any human activity and any construction is damaging to the ‘unspoiled’ environment. Note that there has been no ‘unspoiled’ environment in Ireland since cro-Magnon man started lighting fires here 50,000 years or so ago. What you’re talking about is prefering one form of land management to another, and to my mind both you and Jeff Rooker ought to make a far stronger case for that before jumping in with bull-in-a-china-shop legislation like this.

    In any case, this will only benefit those who already hold land zoned for building, and those who own large trade-downable properties outright. It will penalise the young, the poor and those who don’t have an inheritance coming up or parents able to give them a deposit. As such it reinforces the class system and and is a massively un-meritocratic step which ensures that poverty, like wealth, will cascade down the generations. That’s why I, just speaking personally, call you, Jeff Rooker and the rest of the green movement reactionary.

    By the way, you say up the thread that “These people talk about how we have lived this way for years – but that is far from justification.” That sounds pretty creepy to me. What are you going to do, bulldoze the few remaining houses in the Lower Shankill, build lots of trendy high density new flats and move lots of culshies in from their single dwellings in Fermanagh and Tyrone? That’s, like, so different from what we unsuccessfully tried in the 60s isn’t it?

  • slug

    I don’t think this order stops people living in villages and towns outside Belfast.

    I don’t think that many people are undecided as between living in Belfast city centre and a remote isolated part of the country. There are intermediate options.

    That is, the two are not “near neighbours” in product characteristic space and not direct substitutes in demand.

  • slug

    “this will only benefit those who already hold land zoned for building”

    There are asthetic benefits. Planning for asthetic reasons seems desirable. Of course its a matter of calculation whether Rooker has the trade-off right.

  • Young Fogey

    qubol (again)

    Sorry, we crossed in the post…

    If you want to talk about concentrating people from isolated rural homesteads into larger villages and towns, the two most significant recent examples have been Julius Nyerere’s “Ujamaa Vijijini” programme in Tanzania and Nicolae Ceaucescu’s programme of “systematisation” in Romania.

    Think that’s unfair? – Think through the implications of what you’re proposing first.

  • George

    interesting that as the tighten the one off housing rule north of the border, it has been loosened south of it.

    If a person has roots in an area they should be allowed to live there. In the Republic, at least in areas near major conurbations, you now have to live in the house you build for seven years which seems a reasonable deal.

    For generations, people were fleeing from these areas. It is good the children want to stay near to their families and ridiculous that a government expects the people to corral themselves into villages and towns against their will so the figures add up on the public service provision.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Qubol: “How can you call something that should of been done years ago reactionary?”

    Shall we *start* with the simple fact that it is being done by ministerial fiat — decision first, consultation later?

    Qubol: “One thing that strikes me is that we have an awful lot of people telling us that ‘our pattern of settlement is different’ without supporting this. For example is there any evidence to suggest that the dispersed nature of housing in the countryside is an old phenomenon or have most of these single dwelling houses been built in the last say 80 years? I don’t have any stats either but it seems pretty obvious to me that many houses in the countryside are modern developments.

    Contrariwise, you admit your reasoning is inductive (what folks in Engineering would call a W.A.G.) and based wholly on anecdotal “evidence.” Not for nothing, there are any number of reasons that house you have seen are “modern developments,” starting with the simple fact that things change — houses wear out, people desire amenities they old houses cannot physically support, et al and ad nauseum.

    That said, I find it amusing the central government should have the ability to de fact “confiscate” land through the dictation of what may be done with the land. Likewise, the English housing markets are bollixed and this dictated policy will duplicate that foolishness. Intrusions into the free market have unintended consequences, starting with higher housing costs.

    Then again, I find it amusing that the folks in the countryside should take advice from folks who think “roughing it” is room service in a two star hotel.

  • qubol

    Young Fogey – what a nonsense to suggest im proposing Ceaucescu style urbanisation. The restriction placed on the development of new buildings in the North are sensible and necessary. I heard that this policy already applies to approx 30% of the countryside and now is being extended across the north. People from the countryside already have houses in the country and this policy in the main will prevent people from urban areas setting up home in the countryside. No one is suggesting that we should have forcible urbanisation but policies that directly lead to ‘Bungalow Blight’ should be ended and it rightly should be harder for people to develop new dwellings in the country. I don’t know where you are from – I’m from Antrim and it breaks my heart to see these horrible stone clad, pebble dashed disasters up and down OUR hills. Are you happy for where ever you’re from to resemble parts of donegal?
    It is good the children want to stay near to their families and ridiculous that a government expects the people to corral themselves into villages and towns against their will so the figures add up on the public service provision.
    Why is it ridiculous? Me and few hundred thousand other people don’t feel ‘corralled’ in the cities and towns, moreover we pay higher taxes so you can keep some public services close to you whilst you enjoy the view and country air. Tough luck – and anyway in some scenario where young first time country buyers want to stay near their family the reality is that the nearest urban centre is never going to be more than 20 minutes away – anyone would think you where proposing urbanisation towards Timbuktu!

  • George

    Qubol,
    you are throwing out the baby with the bathwater here I feel. If you won’t allow new houses to be built in rural areas, where will the children of those who live there today live?

    A state that forbids people from living where they and their ancestors have always lived is not for the greater common good even if it means you have more people leaving near a beloved bus stop.

    I’m from a city and still live in one but not everyone is and it is wrong to impose an urban will and urban values on all.

    People who are born in an area, who live in an area and who contribute to an area should be entitled to build their home in that area.

    You cite Donegal. Much of Donegal’s problems eminate from northerners building houses there. Under the new legislation in the Republic they would have to show a link to the area.

    This seems a more reasonable way to go than a blanket ban. Rural depopulation isn’t a good thing.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Qubol: “what a nonsense to suggest im proposing Ceaucescu style urbanisation.”

    Its the law of unintended consequences, Qubol. It is what happens when people forget that Newton’s laws are, metaphorically speaking, not solely applicable to physics.

    Qubol: “The restriction placed on the development of new buildings in the North are sensible and necessary. I heard that this policy already applies to approx 30% of the countryside and now is being extended across the north.”

    Basis, please? The fact that “you heard” and a pocket full of money can have a good time on a Friday night, but it doesn’t mean there is any value in “you heard” What makes this change necessary, as opposed to simply something you find desirable?

    Qubol: “People from the countryside already have houses in the country and this policy in the main will prevent people from urban areas setting up home in the countryside. No one is suggesting that we should have forcible urbanisation but policies that directly lead to ‘Bungalow Blight’ should be ended and it rightly should be harder for people to develop new dwellings in the country.”

    Really? Where, pray tell, should the descendants of these “countryside dwellers” live? Unable to build new housing, they will, perforce, be forced to move to suburban / urban areas, neh? Likewise, should a family wish to replace their homestead — tear down an existing structure and replace it, will this dictate policy allow that?

    Qubol: “I don’t know where you are from – I’m from Antrim and it breaks my heart to see these horrible stone clad, pebble dashed disasters up and down OUR hills.”

    Ah, but are they really “OUR” hills? Who owns title and pays tax upon them, pray tell — the state / community? Obviously not, or else this policy would be redundant, insofar as the state could preserve them without imposing this nonsense. The hills belong to someone specifically neither you nor the state and you wish the state to impose your/their will upon said owners, thereby robbing them of the use of their land without having to compensate them for said loss.

  • Crataegus

    Has there ever been a coherent rural development policy?

    Ireland North and South must have one of the most centralised development patterns in Europe. The population of Greater Belfast including suburbs like Lisburn, Carrick, Newtownabbey, Castlereagh, Comber, Newtownards and Bangor must be around 40% of the population of NI. The Population around Dublin including places like Naas, Tallaght, North Wicklow, Balbriggan, Dún Laoghaire etc is an equally high percentage. This cannot be a sound model for the future well being of the country as a whole?

    What ever happened to the concept of consultation and the due process of adopting and changing policy? This is the sort of democratic decision making process on par with Stalinist Russia and a lot of it is probably open to legal challenge.

    Young Fogey.

    I agree with your comments in particular, “it will penalise the young, the poor and those who don’t have an inheritance coming up or parents able to give them a deposit”.

    Anyone sitting with development land will have massively gained by this, and the more land they own the more they will have gained. In Belfast there is going to be a considerable increase in pressure to build on urban gardens, convert houses into apartments, build on industrial and commercial sites etc. The track record of the planning service in handling the issues surrounding these development types has been lack lustre.

    This also must be seen in the context of the draft Belfast Metropolitan Plan which is also in many ways a restrictive document. We are not building enough housing and frankly I don’t see how demand will be met.

  • qubol

    >>qubol: “already applies to approx 30% of the countryside”
    DC: “Basis, please?”

    I believe it was Jeff Rooker who said that on Talkback last week.

    OK Dread Cthulhu when you’ve finished your patronising Barrister routine.
    This new policy will permit limited development where a reason for the development exists – and in certain circumstances it should be possible to build a replacement dwelling.

    they will, perforce, be forced to move to suburban / urban areas, neh?
    Well no one is forcing anyone to do anything here but they are restricting what they can do. Sensible restrictions on what and where we can build are necessary on many levels including the provision of public services, the need to maintain our land and heritage etc.

    Ah, but are they really “OUR” hills?

    Well, DC if you want you really want to argue that they aren’t OUR hills then thats fine – but I bet you would feel a sense of ownership and be rightly aggrieved of some one who owned land near your house decided to build a Nuclear Power station or maybe more realistically an Asbestos Disposal Facility. I Feel aggrieved that the land I’m from and that I feel a sense of ownership of is being scarred by these horrible bungalows.

  • Crataegus

    Qubol

    My advice would be not to quote Mr Rooker as an authoritative source. SERIOUSLY!!!!

  • slug

    “The hills belong to someone specifically neither you nor the state and you wish the state to impose your/their will upon said owners, thereby robbing them of the use of their land without having to compensate them for said loss.”

    Yes – they are our hills.

    And I hope that we get the right to roam too.

  • Crataegus

    I for one would welcome improved access to the countryside but let’s not get too sentimental as the hills and fields are also a resource.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Qubol: “I believe it was Jeff Rooker who said that on Talkback last week. ”

    Really? Rooker actually proved that these fiats were “sensible and necessary?” Talk about bootstrap levitation. Because Rooker said so, that must make it so?

    Qubol: “This new policy will permit limited development where a reason for the development exists – and in certain circumstances it should be possible to build a replacement dwelling. ”

    Uh-huh… and I am willing to wager the simple fact that it happens to be privately owned land will not be an acceptable reason. In fact, regardless of what pretty language and verbal sops they throw, it is likely that this will turn into another bureaucracy beholden not to the people but their own political patrons.

    Qubol: “Well no one is forcing anyone to do anything here but they are restricting what they can do. Sensible restrictions on what and where we can build are necessary on many levels including the provision of public services, the need to maintain our land and heritage etc.”

    First of all, but limiting their option to build new housing on land outside the towns, they are, in fact, forcing them into the cities. The only real difference is they are doing it bureaucratically, rather than via force. Again, I point out that these are not “sensible restrictions.” Sensible restrictions have an underlying rationale that can be presented. This is a “because we said so” fiat pushed down from on high. Just because you happen to agree with it does not lend it any rational or sensible basis. Likewise, if they really were commonly owned / governmentally own land, this conversation wouldn’t be necessary, now would it?

    Qubol: “Well, DC if you want you really want to argue that they aren’t OUR hills then thats fine – but I bet you would feel a sense of ownership and be rightly aggrieved of some one who owned land near your house decided to build a Nuclear Power station or maybe more realistically an Asbestos Disposal Facility.”

    A straw-man of the weakest sort, Qubol. We are discussing building housing on land that is readily zoned for such a use, not the placement of potentially hazardous industrial facilities near private residences.

    Qubol: “I Feel aggrieved that the land I’m from and that I feel a sense of ownership of is being scarred by these horrible bungalows. ”

    Ah, your “sense” of ownership. Really. That “sense” and some money can buy you lunch, but it still doesn’t have any legitimate worth. You are still taking from others when you seek to bureaucratically control something that is not yours to begin with. How much, pray tell, do you think is fair recompense for the confiscation of building rights on this land?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    DC:”The hills belong to someone specifically neither you nor the state and you wish the state to impose your/their will upon said owners, thereby robbing them of the use of their land without having to compensate them for said loss.”

    Slug: “Yes – they are our hills.”

    If they truly are commonly owned (i.e. “our” hills), why is this bureaucratic taking even necessary?

    Slug: “And I hope that we get the right to roam too. ”

    Ah, yes, the inevitable statist taking of rights without recompense. Tell me, Slug, why should a private land-owner allow (or even want) you to wander over their property, given the foolishness that seeps out of the courts and governmental bureacracies? I can recall at least two cases where trespassers (burglers, really…) sought to break into warehouses, injured themselves gravely and received obscene recompense for their injuries. The short answer is they wouldn’t, if only for the inconvenience.

    You are stealing (taking without compensation) a right from those who own the land. The fact that you tart-up this act with bureaucratic language and romantic notions does nothing to change that.

  • Crataegus

    Qubol

    Ever thought that people may not like your house?

    I would rather my neighbours houses were elsewhere, but we have to come up with a coherent policy that provides the houses and employment opportunity across Northern Ireland. A good quality environment and development are not mutually exclusive, but a good environment and a healthy economy and ill considered legislation are.

  • qubol

    DC: Really? Rooker actually proved that these fiats were “sensible and necessary?” Talk about bootstrap levitation. Because Rooker said so, that must make it so?
    well – I didnt say that I simply stated that Rooker informed us of the 30% figure. And ususally I wouldn’t like to source him but its a fairly simple uncontentious stat.

    DC: and I am willing to wager the simple fact that it happens to be privately owned land will not be an acceptable reason.
    i didnt talk about privately owned land but I did say that provided certain criteria were met then redevelopment could happen – this is perfectly fine, just because someone owns a house doesn’t mean they have the automatic right to redevelop whatever they so choose.

    DC: Sensible restrictions have an underlying rationale that can be presented. This is a “because we said so” fiat pushed down from on high.
    Do you think jeff rooker or the senior civil servant that tells him what to say woke up one morning and said “I know lets do something to really annoy them”? This decision has a firm basis and rationale that seeks to protect our environment, tourist industry and assist in the efficient provision of public services. This decision will have some negative side effects but DC, its for the greater good. The protection of our natural resources, the lowering of expenditure associated with maintaining highly dispersed settlements and our abilty to promote Ireland as an unspoilt and beautiful tourist destination are at stake.

    DC:A straw-man of the weakest sort, Qubol. We are discussing building housing on land that is readily zoned for such a use
    uhhh, no DC its not zoned for Residential developments, u just believe it should be. And I know the argument about a Nuclear power plant is stretching it but the point still stands about your belief in unhindered development when it suits you.

    DC: How much, pray tell, do you think is fair recompense for the confiscation of building rights on this land?
    Well, DC building rights aren’t being confiscated because they have to be awarded in the first place. No-one under the old system or the new system has the automatic right to develop, thats why we have the planning system, what would you suggest unhindered development across the countryside?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Qubol: “i didnt talk about privately owned land but I did say that provided certain criteria were met then redevelopment could happen – this is perfectly fine, just because someone owns a house doesn’t mean they have the automatic right to redevelop whatever they so choose. ”

    In other words, the bureaucracy uber alles, nicht wahr?

    If the land was publicly held, we wouldn’t be having this conversation — some level of government would own the land and that would be it. Obviously we must be talking about land in hands other than the government, since the bureaucrats feel the need to micromanage. Likewise, if replacing an existing structure requires the same hoop-hopping as building an additional structure, then this has little or nothing to do with stopping sprawl and is, in fact, just another petty statist control over the populace.

    Qubol: “Do you think jeff rooker or the senior civil servant that tells him what to say woke up one morning and said “I know lets do something to really annoy them”? This decision has a firm basis and rationale that seeks to protect our environment, tourist industry and assist in the efficient provision of public services.”

    Any white papers or serious review to back up this assertation, or is this more of a feel-good “W.A.G.?”

    Qubol: “This decision will have some negative side effects but DC, its for the greater good.”

    As, the ubiquitous “greater good,” socialist / statist for “we know better than you do what to do with your (insert asset here.)” Spoken like someone not directly impacted by the proposed regulation.

    Qubol: “The protection of our natural resources, the lowering of expenditure associated with maintaining highly dispersed settlements and our abilty to promote Ireland as an unspoilt and beautiful tourist destination are at stake.”

    First of all, if the land belongs to someone else, free of impairments and other fetters, they are not “our” natural resources, per se. You want something for nothing, stripping the land-owner of their rights without recompense.

    Secondly, if it is that much of a government priority, then the gov’t ought to buy out these land-holders, rather than try to steal it on the installment plan.

    Qubol: “uhhh, no DC its not zoned for Residential developments, u just believe it should be. And I know the argument about a Nuclear power plant is stretching it but the point still stands about your belief in unhindered development when it suits you.”

    Really?? If it were difficult to get a variance on the land or were there existing regulation that would prevent such construction, why such a draconian move to stop it now? If existing regulation were adequate to control the populace, why the new one? Face it, the new reg was proposed because it encompasses powers the bureaucrats didn’t alreaady have, the simplest test being if they thought they could accomplish their goals under existing regulations, they would have done so, rather than roil the waters in this fashion.

    And its beyond a stretch. For starters, the process of building such an industrial facility would be a bureaucratic nightmare that makes this one look like a fart in a tornado. It could not be done by bureaucratic fiat.

    Qubol: “Well, DC building rights aren’t being confiscated because they have to be awarded in the first place. No-one under the old system or the new system has the automatic right to develop, thats why we have the planning system, what would you suggest unhindered development across the countryside? ”

    Were they difficult to obtain, as you imply above, why propose this draconian new control? It amounts to de facto theft.

  • Qubol

    DCIn other words, the bureaucracy uber alles, nicht wahr?
    Nein, buhast über haut nicht verstamden, worum eshier eigentlich geht. Es geht hier nicht um Buerokratie, sonbern um Umweltschutz.

    DC: Any white papers or serious review to back up this assertation, or is this more of a feel-good “W.A.G.?”

    The need to conserve our rural areas has been publicly discussed many times and has also been the focus of several government papers including the Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland and Shaping our Future amongst others. In the south it was also heavily discussed in the National Spatial Strategy.

    DC:Really?? If it were difficult to get a variance on the land or were there existing regulation that would prevent such construction

    Not sure what you’re reading DC but AGAIN i didnt say that. I simply said the land isn’t zoned for housing – how difficult it might be to attain planning permission on unzoned land varies. Clearly existing rules didn’t work because parts of countryside are a complete mess. These changes will hopefully remidy the situation.

  • Young Fogey

    Qubol – you take issue with my comparison of you to Nicolae Ceaucescu – well, tough, your attitude is exactly the sort that one would have expected from a thrusting bureaucrat in Eastern Europe in 1985 or so. And as for Jeff Rooker, you can quite easily see him as a camp commander in the Gulag archipelago.

    As Jeff Rooker doesn’t realise, but I would really rather expect you to, conditions here are not the same as in England. For a start our population is increasing, and will for anather 20-25 years, even without the effect of increasing immigration, and on top of that, rapid changes in faamily structure means that the number of households is increasing rapidly and will for the foreseeable. As well as that, population increase is fastest in the rural – and sparsely populated – West. In fact, higher population density in the West would be a good thing in terms of securing the sort of social goods you purport to be so interested in.

    In other words, we need more houses, unless you want to force independent adults to share dwellings indefinitely. You either have to build them:

    * in the country;
    * in planned suburban growth;
    * on brownfield and garden sites in cities, or;
    * by subdividing existing homes, probably in cities and towns almost exclusively, into smaller and smaller flats.

    I see nothing wrong in principle with building in the countryside, especially given the large web of regional parks, sites of special scientific interest, etc., which cover our most scenic and ecologically sensitive parts.

    You seem to want to force people – this generation and their children (a growing proportion of whom are from rural areas) – to live in cities to achieve some greater social good. Which you claim is in the general interest, but really is in your own interest. That sounds pretty Ceaucescean to me.

    If you don’t build new houses you will force the price of existing homes up (remember, we have a rapidly growing number of households). That’s effectively an age tax on the young, one which is crippling on the young and poor, which is likely in turn force them to delay or abandon starting a family, lead to a lifetime without privacy, etc. And it will reinforce the class system by putting those without solvent parents at a massive disadvantage, making us one of those places where you need either to be rich or on the dole to afford anywhere civilised to live.

    Your most revealing comment was the one about “these horrible bungalows” – face it, you just can’t handle the fact that not everyone likes the thought of living in the boho, high-density world you like. For what it’s worth, I’ve never lived outside the centre of a big city for more than 6 months in my life and I don’t want to live anywhere else. If I came back to NI I’d move to Belfast and I like it. But that doesn’t give me the right to tell other people how to live their lives. And as a young person without wealthy parents, this will force up the cost of my housing and directly reduce my quality of life by reducing the size of the overall housing stock.

    This decision has revealed, for all devolution’s weaknesses, the problem with direct rule. It’s not that English ministers make decisions per se, but that the policy making process is captured by special interests, and ordinary people are left out of the loop entirely. This is exactly the sort of nonsense proposed by the well-heeled, property owning, solvent members of environmental lobby groups.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Qubol: “Not sure what you’re reading DC but AGAIN i didnt say that. I simply said the land isn’t zoned for housing – how difficult it might be to attain planning permission on unzoned land varies. Clearly existing rules didn’t work because parts of countryside are a complete mess. These changes will hopefully remidy (sic) the situation.”

    No, I am simply inferring the logical implication of the state’s move. The only reason such a sudden and dictatorial regulatory move is necessary is that it was either A) permissable to build single family dwellings on the land in question or B) getting permission / a variance to do so was a simple matter. Either way, a de facto right (building on land one owns) has been taken by the state. Why else make such a draconian and blanket change to the status quo?

    Obviously there is a need for housing, else this wouldn’t be an issue. Now, by arbitrarily preventing new construction in the rural areas, you shrink the pool of available housing, ending up with more buyers than the limited number of rural houses avilable, which, in turn, causes them to bid up prices. This, in turn, will force some people into the town and cities, ala Ceaucescu, who otherwise would have remained in the rural areas. This, in turn, increases the number of folks pursuing urban and suburban housing, causing a) a bid up on rents and housing prices and / or b) stressing public housing. Now, qui bono? Obviously the state, what taxes income (rents) and land transactions. Urban / suburban sellers and landlords, able to command higher prices for their holdings. If fact, the only folks who get harmed are young home-buyers, damaged by what is, de facto, a regressive tax.

    The fact, btw, that these folks are being forced from the countryside via bureaucratic means rather than force does not invalidate Young Fogey’s analogy. You are forcing people to do what you want, for your benefit, without recompense or so much as a “by your leave.”

  • páid

    strong debating lads – life experience informs me ye are lads! 😉 –

    a few points

    travelling around ireland i observe…

    the vast majority of towns and cities are crap compared to continental europe. I suspect this is due to a very small urban merchant class historically

    settlement patterns in ireland are more dispersed than england. I read that the 18th century enclosure Acts shifted the english peasants off the land

    Connacht, west munster and west ulster are the poorest and most dispersed. Diamonds (squares) are an attractive feature in Ulster, associated with planting, I hazard a guess.

    and I would recommend

    high taxes on gains associated with granting of Planning permission

    severe physical impact planning restrictions

    Non flat-rate road taxes to discourage long commutes

    and most of all…….create very attractive urban spaces. NI has avoided so far some of the worst bungalow blight. If you ever go to west clare or kerry you will see planning atrocities that have blighted coastlines for ever. And there was no need…

  • qubol

    Wow Wow Wow – so Im a Ceauşescu urbaniser!
    you guys are unreal – to compare these plans with Ceauşescu’ Urbanisation programs are ridiculous and quiet insulting to Romanians hit by his brutal regime.

    Young Fogey: Your most revealing comment was the one about “these horrible bungalows” – face it, you just can’t handle the fact that not everyone likes the thought of living in the boho, high-density world you like.
    Well Fogey I did face it and quikley came to the conclusion that I have no problem with bungalows. I’m very strongly opinionated when it comes to architecture but have no problem with bungalows per se. However I do object to Horrible architecture blighting our countryside – insensitive architecture that is out of keeping with its environment – one of the main offenders in this area is the Bungalow.

    Young Fogey: Which you claim is in the general interest, but really is in your own interest. Yeah OK then I’m only looking out for myself when I wonder about groundwater nitrate levels caused by pollution from septic tanks of single dwelling households and when the tourists stop coming because they’re dispointed that the glens and hills look spoilt by chunky white houses, conservatories, drive ways and turf lawns thats just me watching my back too. Also when I have to pay higher rates/taxes to support further road building because of our distributed settlements I’m just being plain greedy.

    Young Fogey:
    This is exactly the sort of nonsense proposed by the well-heeled, property owning, solvent members of environmental lobby groups.

    Actually Young Fogey of the debate I’ve heard (some Prof from UU on Talkbalk) and having talked to planners this policy is supported by many professional town planners who see current developments as unsustainable.

    ————————————

    I’ll go back to the first thing I said: this just exposes the selfishness of others – others who would be quick to criticise say America for its poor Environmental policies. When the question is asked of us – how can we do something to look after our environment we are left wanting. Far easier to question others than to actually take decisive action to combat pollution, global warming and tackle conservation. DC and Young Fogey focus on the money involved and the terrible consequences of having to move 20 minutes away from your Mammy – Unfortunately in the years to come we will have to sacrifice many things in order to maintain our standard of living – this is just one. Our ability to adapt is key.
    There is also a frequent mention of housing shortages – which is true but this can be adequately addressed through further urban development. Many of the people who live in the country work in the urban centres anyhow this just simply makes more sense. Can any of you seriously suggest that the dispersed nature of single dwelling housing is actually good for society? If you can go ahead – if you cant then how do you solve this problem?

  • slug

    Good points pid and qubol.

    I think that NI has until recently lacked taste and a concern for asthetics in its buildings and planning policy.

    There was a lack of concern to preserve the heritage. In Ballymena town centre the old riverside industrial heritage from the linen era, that could have been preserved and turned into something special, like town centre apartments, were just bulldozed to create a B&Q and Sainsburys.

    Antrim town centre, once very attractive, was destroyed and replaced with a horrible through-pass and shopping centre.

    Fortunately I sense over the last while that people are beginning to worry more about the aesthetic quality of their physical environment, whether town or country.

    Nobody would argue for a laissez faire planning policy so this is all a matter of degree. But there is an asthetic argument in all of this and it seems that this argument is being heard more and more.

    Its not just in the countryside that there is more emphasis on how things look. We are also keener now to make the most of our town centres too, which is why the buildings that are going up today are much better than they were a couple of decades ago.

  • Crataegus

    Architecture is a strange thing, when they first go up they are new and modern. After two decades they are reviled and once they are 50 people start listing them.

    The planning service lacks coherent criteria and objectives. Planning is not an end in itself but a tool to achieve objectives. The problem is what should these objectives be and how we weight one set of criteria against another. I would like to see a greater emphasis in creating sustainable communities and vibrant local economies and a lot less on subjective criteria.

    Pid

    high taxes on gains associated with granting of Planning permission
    severe physical impact planning restrictions
    Non flat-rate road taxes to discourage long commutes

    Totally agree but on road taxes need to be careful not to penalise those who really do need to travel. Consideration should also be given to service and transport provision. Stable settlement patterns are needed so that investment in schools, recreation and health facilities is fully utilised and communities remain viable and with mixed age groups. However this also requires some coherent economic policy for without it and without viable local economies you end up with dormitory towns and settlements. Is Rooker’s pronouncement simply an admission that the rural economy is a lost cause?

    I would also suggest that developments should produce power on site, harvest rain water etc. They need to reduce their environmental footprint. It is all doable as is better integration into the surroundings and ensuring proper sewerage treatment. This blanket ban really does make little sense. What is the objective? Is it simply because some don’t like bungalows in the country? If so surely one should ask why and address that narrow issue?

    Also bear in mind that the planners that are currently supporting these proposals belong to the same organisation that created Craigavon, turned many of our town centres into round abouts, allowed the demolition of much of our heritage, allowed the expansion of Bangor onto some of our best farmland etc. In their defence without clear political direction and clear objectives what are they supposed to produce?

    What is the future of NI to be; what is the vision?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Qubol: “I’ll go back to the first thing I said: this just exposes the selfishness of others – others who would be quick to criticise say America for its poor Environmental policies.”

    Contrariwise, this exposes the statist orientation of some who would curtail their neighbor’s rights and rob them of their wealth out of some misguided socialist notions of knowing what to do with their property better than the owners. You want the state to dictate someone else’s life and lifestyle, which is foolishness. As for the US environment, I would point out that, despite not signing onto Kyoto, they are closer to the goals that most of the European signatories… if only they could get their liberals off the rhetoric and into deeds.

    Qubol: “When the question is asked of us – how can we do something to look after our environment we are left wanting.”

    People are not being “asked,” they are being dictated at, in the finest traditions of tin-pot dictatorships.

    Qubol: “Far easier to question others than to actually take decisive action to combat pollution, global warming and tackle conservation.”

    Please, come down off your cross, the timber would be better used elsewhere. This has more to do with micro-managing other people’s live than it does with saving the environment. Again, this is not about asking people to do right — for one, no one is asking anyone anything, the state is demanding obediece.

    Qubol: DC and Young Fogey focus on the money involved and the terrible consequences of having to move 20 minutes away from your Mammy – Unfortunately in the years to come we will have to sacrifice many things in order to maintain our standard of living – this is just one.”

    Sacrifice is voluntary. This is a seizure — it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the difference.

    Qubol: “There is also a frequent mention of housing shortages – which is true but this can be adequately addressed through further urban development. Many of the people who live in the country work in the urban centres anyhow this just simply makes more sense. Can any of you seriously suggest that the dispersed nature of single dwelling housing is actually good for society? If you can go ahead – if you cant then how do you solve this problem?”

    Who are *you* to make that decision for someone else? Who is the state to dictate to the individual how or where they should live? Besides, your “solution” will have families living with their parents, unable to afford housing.

    As for dispersed populations, there are advantages. Less noise pollution, less light pollution, less crime, fewer societal problems. Its called “quality of life.”

    Besides, if the cities were really all that attractive an option, why would the state need this measure to stop people from building single family homes? Besides, what do you propose to deal with the readily apparent housing crunch? Or are you going to trust the state to control that chunk of the economy as well?

  • George

    Qubol,
    “Nein, buhast über haut nicht verstamden, worum eshier eigentlich geht. Es geht hier nicht um Buerokratie, sonbern um Umweltschutz.”

    One grammar mistake, three spelling errors, two words separated when they should be together and four put together when they shouldn’t. Is this Ulster-German?

  • Young Fogey

    Qubol

    Yes, you’re a Ceaucescu urbaniser – you refuse to face up to the negative consequences for the sort of things you propose. You don’t challenge that we have a growing demand for housing and you seem to cheerfully accept that your proposals amount to an age tax on the young and are going to lead to massive social dislocation for young working-class people, especially in the countryside. But that’s all OK as long as it’s for the greater good – be that socialism, environmentalism, Great Romanian nationalism, or whatever.

    At least you’ve now retreated from your “all bungalows are Satan” position – the question then for you, and for slug who makes the same point in a more reasonable way, is who determines what is architecturally acceptable and what isn’t? Remember the same planners you laud are the same planners who produced the abortions of Antrim Town Centre, Craigavon, Unity Flats, etc., etc. And that’s why the fact that professional planners support this piece of legislation is of little interest to me.

    Perhaps you want a more ‘democratic’ form of planning? Neighbourhood architecture boards, where the community decides if something is too ugly to be built? Remember that that sort of thing operates in many upscale communities in the American West most of which look like a tornado just passed through but still don’t let you put up a washing line in your back garden.

    I’m not talking about the misery of being made to move 20 minutes from your Mammy (although who are you to say how far from my Mammy I should be able to live?), but the misery caused by seeing the most expensive thing you’ll ever purchase doubled or tripled in price, being forced to live with your mammy, or share a bathroom and kitchen with strangers, for your adult life all to suit someone’s ideological preference and someone else’s bank account.

    I neither suggest the dispersed nature of housing is neither good or bad, just the consequence of free adults making free choices in a free society. Who are you to impose your values and your way of life on other people?

    pld

    strong debating lads – life experience informs me ye are lads! 😉 –

    Yeah, and life experience informs me you’re a middle-aged, middle-class property owner. Perhaps if you were in the position of entering the housing market at the moment, you’d be debating the issue a bit more strongly as well.

    settlement patterns in ireland are more dispersed than england. I read that the 18th century enclosure Acts shifted the english peasants off the land

    Also, there is no history of fuedalism in Ireland, agriculture was mainly livestock rather than crop based, and industry developed much later and more weakly.

    high taxes on gains associated with granting of Planning permission

    I have no huge problem with developers being made to pay for the infrastructure costs of new developments, but your suggestion implies that land should really be controlled by the state. That worries me a bit. If I put an extension on the back of my house, on my land, what exactly is the state’s justification for taxing me highly?

    severe physical impact planning restrictions

    Imposed by whom? Arbitrated by whom? And where do you house our growing population? We already have the Town and Country Planning Act, park land, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, etc., etc.

    Non flat-rate road taxes to discourage long commutes

    As if the existing ones don’t anyway! Difficult to police and a recipe for corruption.

    If you ever go to west clare or kerry you will see planning atrocities that have blighted coastlines for ever. And there was no need…

    Not forever – they can be demolished. And in any case we already have a restrictive planning system if somewhere really is beautiful – we don’t need to extend that system to every @*!% field in the country. Besides, the worst of the problems in the South weren’t caused by planning laws, they were caused by bribery.

    slug

    In Ballymena town centre the old riverside industrial heritage from the linen era, that could have been preserved and turned into something special, like town centre apartments, were just bulldozed to create a B&Q and Sainsburys.

    It is a pity those were lost but let’s not pretend that town centre apartments in converted factories are ‘something special’. Maybe they would have worked in Ballymena in a way they haven’t elsewhere in Northern Ireland, and not just lain empty for years while speculators from Dublin moved them about as a capital investment.

    Maybe we should have built B&Q and Sainsbury’s somewhere else – on the M2 Bypass would have been sensible but why do I get the feeling that your real problem is with B&Q and Sainsbury’s – you know, cheap clothes, groceries and furniture in a convenient location are really bad? Or maybe I’m misjudging. Tell me if I am.

  • Crataegus

    Young Fogey

    You write with passion supporting a more liberal planning system and in many ways I agree with you. Few who have had dealings with the current system could argue that it is fair, efficient, transparent or consistent.

    I cannot see the point of much of the planning legislation which is highly subjective and in my opinion since 1976 they have not in any way contributed to architectural excellence, quite the opposite. Many of their functions like checking on house extensions and overlooking etc could more efficiently be carried out by Building Control. More house extensions etc should be regarded as permitted and this would free up planners to do the things that really are important like ensuring co-ordination between large developments and service provision.

    Where I would disagree with you is firstly on the point of taxing wind fall gains made by rezoning and I speak as someone with more than a passing interest. If I buy a piece of land, say a small holding and through my knowledge of the system am able to get planning permission for no less than 14 houses giving an immediate gain in value of well over £1,000,000 I can’t see anything wrong in principle in contributing say a quarter of that to pay for the local school and health clinic. Of course if more land was available to develop then the bonus would be less and to work properly such a tax would need a more liberal regime. We are not talking about house extensions but the cost to society of providing the additional services required by a larger local population. Developments such as commercial and industrial would not be taxed as the creation of jobs should be viewed as an essential service and of prime importance to the viability of communities. Retail may be one sector that requires more careful consideration as you need balance between local provision and convenience otherwise you end up with areas with no provision to the disadvantage of the elderly, the poor and the infirm.

    Secondly somewhere in my deepest id there is a notion that you need some level of basic control or chaos would ensue, however you must first set the criteria and the rationale and in my opinion they should be a lot more quantitative and less subjective. In many ways it should be presumed that you have a right to develop rather than a privilege given from on high.

    What the controlling criteria should be requires a political vision and a consensus as to the type of NI we wish to create and that we do not have, therefore much of what comes out of the various government agencies is incoherent and we all loose as there is no clear and common sense of purpose.

  • Young Fogey

    If I buy a piece of land, say a small holding and through my knowledge of the system am able to get planning permission for no less than 14 houses giving an immediate gain in value of well over £1,000,000 I can’t see anything wrong in principle in contributing say a quarter of that to pay for the local school and health clinic.

    Nor do I – and I thought I’d said that in above, although I might not have been as clear as I ought in my urge to attack the latest piece of nonsense from Rooker.

    Secondly somewhere in my deepest id there is a notion that you need some level of basic control or chaos would ensue

    I agree. The only really big first-world city I can think of without planning system at all is Houston – and it’s a tip.

    However, the assumptions operated on by planners and a lot of lobbying (both citizen and professional) are that:

    * humanity is basically bad
    * building homes is basically bad
    * keeping the countryside in its natural state is an unfettered good, even though the Irish countryside hasn’t been in its natural state since about 50,000 BC.
    * restricting the supply in a market with growing demand is good, even if it means crippling young people with debt

    This has happened largely without public debate and entirely without debate of the economic and social consequences of pursuing such a course.

    There’s a reason why, until about the 1980s, administrations were judged by many people on their ability to provide adequate housing. The issue disappeared when housing supply largely kept pace with demand for about 20 years, and the Housing Executive started building quality homes. Now we’re departing from that, I’ll be interested to see how long that lasts.

  • Crataegus

    Young Fogey

    Like your bullet points!

    I agree there is a section of our community that see all development as bad, and for reasons I have never been able to understand, believe the current state is the natural order of things. Don’t plant trees on the Belfast hills because there are no forests there now, but those around Belfast Castle are great even though that is a relatively recent plantation?

    We are heading for a serious housing shortage and civil servants and government ministers aren’t listening to what the building industry is telling them. There is also under development across large sections of NI.

    Be in no doubt Rooker’s decision will have a serious impact on the rural economy and it will not hold.

    The points you make regarding areas of special control are pertinent in this debate, and it is ridiculous to severely restrict the entire rural area. It is insanity and is deeply invasive; it is a direct attack on people’s rights and when you do that you must have clear reasons why you are doing it. “I don’t like bungalows just isn’t good enough”.

    Our economy really cannot afford this subjective planning system. Agree and set some real criteria related to sustainability and the long term viability of communities and the predictable long term demands for the services that are in place.

    To give an example of the sort of problem; if we build a large estate then hundreds of young couples move in and we have a spike in demand for places in the local schools. This lasts for about 15 years but as the estate ages as a block the demand then falls away. This unnatural mix of age groups causes an inefficient use of services. How do we avoid it? How do we ensure that communities and their assets do not go into decline?

    I am not arguing for a free for all but something really progressive, clear open and fair and as unobtrusive as it can be. Let’s decide what will be important in 60 years and plan for it now.

  • páid

    YOUNG FOGEY……
    Yeah, and life experience informs me you’re a middle-aged, middle-class property owner.
    GOT ME! (THOUGH I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN COUNCIL FLATS)
    Perhaps if you were in the position of entering the housing market at the moment, you’d be debating the issue a bit more strongly as well.
    WELL I’M AT THIS BLOG AGAIN AT A LATE HOUR. I GENUINELY WISH YOU WELL IN YOUR SEARCH AND I BELIEVE SOCIETY IS WELL SERVED WITH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE OWNING PROPERTY

    severe physical impact planning restrictions

    Imposed by whom? Arbitrated by whom?
    WELL, QUALIFIED PLANNERS, IMPLEMENTING A DEMOCRATICALLY VOTED ON PLAN. AN INDEPENDENT APPEALS BOARD.

    And where do you house our growing population?
    ANYWHERE YOU LIKE WITHIN REASON! IRELAND IS LARGELY EMPTY, AT LEAST HALF OF IT ISN’T THAT BEAUTIFUL. I JUST DON’T LIKE SPECTACULAR HEADLANDS
    BEING RUINED OR KEPT FOR AN ELITE.

    your suggestion implies that land should really be controlled by the state
    NO IT DOESN’T! THEY SHOULD RUN NATIONAL PARKS BUT THAT’S IT! BUT I’D BE WORRIED ABOUT planning BEING RUN BY PRIVATE INTERESTS

    Non flat-rate road taxes to discourage long commutes

    As if the existing ones don’t anyway!

    COMMUTING HAS VASTLY INCREASED IN THE LAST FEW YEARS IN THE SOUTH..ANYONE WILL TELL YOU THAT. I HOPE NORDIES DON’T FIND THEIR LIVES WASTED IN CARS TO THE SAME EXTENT, THAT’S ALL.

    Difficult to police and a recipe for corruption.
    TRUE, BUT IN THE FUTURE I THINK WE SHOULD BE CHARGED ON HOW MUCH ROAD WE USE INSTEAD OF A FLAT-RATE ROAD TAX. ROADS ARE EXPENSIVE AND SUBSIDIZING THEM MAKES PUBLIC TRANSPORT SOLUTIONS EXPENSIVE BY COMPARISON

    the worst of the problems in the South weren’t caused by planning laws, they were caused by bribery.
    TOTALLY AGREE. AND I HOPE YOU FIND A GREAT PROPERTY.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Pid: “I GENUINELY WISH YOU WELL IN YOUR SEARCH AND I BELIEVE SOCIETY IS WELL SERVED WITH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE OWNING PROPERTY”

    First of all, yelling does not make your points sound any more reasonable than they do when presented in a polite fashion.

    Secondly, pray tell, how is the goal of “as many people as possible owning property” supported by a moratorium on single family houses out where, presumably, land is available and relatively inexpensive?

    Pid: “WELL, QUALIFIED PLANNERS, IMPLEMENTING A DEMOCRATICALLY VOTED ON PLAN. AN INDEPENDENT APPEALS BOARD.”

    Pid (again with the shouting…) “ANYWHERE YOU LIKE WITHIN REASON! IRELAND IS LARGELY EMPTY, AT LEAST HALF OF IT ISN’T THAT BEAUTIFUL. I JUST DON’T LIKE SPECTACULAR HEADLANDS BEING RUINED OR KEPT FOR AN ELITE. ”

    The moratorium doesn’t accomplish these goals, either. As a matter of fact, who do you think has a better chance of gaining an exemption, a wealthy person or a normal “Joe?”

  • Crataegus

    WELL, QUALIFIED PLANNERS,

    I wonder how many of you have had direct dealings with ‘Planners’. Over the years I have and I have to ask well qualified at what?

    Aesthetics? Give me an Architect any day. Roads Works or Sewerage? Better to consult Engineers. For costings you would consult a Quantity Surveyor. So what set of skills do Planners bring? Coordinating Development but if that is the main role they have been less than successful and to be fair to them how can you coordinate if you have no meaningful budget?

    So is the role of a planner simply some paid busy body who makes all sorts of intrusive restrictions on someone else’s life? House is to big, too small, too many windows too few and hey what about a 1:500 block plan of that back yard? What is the purpose in much of this and has 30 years of it delivered a quality environment? I think not.

    It is not that the individual planners are at fault but the system in which they work has no real purpose. What are they there for and what is their role and objective?

  • páid

    dread cthulhu and crataegus

    firstly apologies for the CAPS..I was (clumsily)trying to differentiate between quotes and my comments on the quotes, not trying to shout.

    I don’t support any moratorium on single houses. I live in one and think it should be as commonplace as it is. I just do not think they should be plonked in a way that ruins the view for others; they should be assimilated (as most are) in slopes, glens etc. not perched on headlands. I do not support any moratorium; I think Irish and Ulster settlement patterns are fundamentally different from settlement patterns in Jeff Rooker’s native Warwickshire; but I have a problem with some of the stuff that is being built, mostly with regard to it’s lack of sympathy to it’s surroundings.

    As for the planners I think you are being a bit harsh. Yes, architects should design the houses. Yes, engineers should build the infrastructure. But (as you say, in fact) someone has to decide how the whole thing hangs together re. public transport, social facilities, schools etc. That cannot be left to architects and engineers. I have had personal dealings with planners and found them much like other professions..some great, some a bit dopey, but most doing their best in a scenario where a lot of people with whom they have to deal have a lot of time and money hanging on their say-so. Not easy!

  • Crataegus

    pid

    I know their job is at times awkward but it is made the more difficult by the lack of clarity in their requirements and incoherent and subjective criteria randomly applied. I am amazed that some people exercise the restraint they do when dealing with them. Decisions like not allowing a ground floor bedroom for an elderly person? Or claiming that a house is in multiple occupancy when several generations of the same family are occupying and sharing the facilities. Some of their decisions really are ‘unusual’ and entertaining and I am sure highly profitable to those who appeal decisions. In my experience the decisions made are far from consistent and often easily overturned at appeal.

    Yes someone should ensure all services are in place but are planners really doing that? Look at sewerage or developments with no schools or shops. They don’t control the budgets and departments like the Roads Service are very good at dominating overall considerations and are virtually a law onto themselves. Should there even be a Roads Service surely it should be a Department of Transport? Planners in theory should lead such Departments but in reality usually follow.

    Planning needs a clear set of objectives that society wishes and I don’t think that is in place. That is not the fault of the Planning Service but of Politics and our woeful political class. As I said previously I would like to see criteria related to sustainability, viable local communities and facilitating employment growth given a much higher importance. Also need policies to correct the imbalance in development west of the Bann.

  • Jim Gawn

    Having grown up on a succession of farms in Co Antrim, I find new construction heartwarming, evidence of vitality in country life. The business of farming may continue to change, but the life of the countryside is still triving.

    Isn’t the whole debate a case for the MLAs getting their fingers out, working together and re-forming a local executive? This issue isn’t one where people naturally split along the lines of the current party structures. Extremists and moderates, nationalists and unionists – all have common concerns, and any of them could fall into any camp as regards their preferred solution. For a core problem in this is the imposition of rules by bureaucrats answerable not to local representatives, but to a larger, more distant government to whom NI remains an aggravating boil on the posterior.

    With respect to “bungalow blight” and “pebble-dashed disasters”: it is the planning laws and their implementation that have caused much of the problem. I have been home to Co. Antrim from the US several times over the last year, and I have been dismayed by the bleak appearance of many new dwellings in the countryside (including a near-million-pound mansion build on the crest of a hill that once belonged to my family and where we were told we would never be allowed to build . . . but don’t get me started on that . . .). Apparently grey roughcast is the Authentic Irish Cottage look du jour among the planners. (White pebble-dash is a lot easier on the eyes – on my eyes, at any rate.) Relatives of mine who wanted to use such extreme (!) materials as brick or weatherboarding were beaten back until they complied. It would seem that to be authentic, we must all be dismal.

    Another problem is that the planners can’t make their minds up whether they want new houses clustered or isolated. Apply for one, you’re told do the other; apply for the other, go back to the first idea.

    Here’s a radical idea: maybe we could let the people who own the land and are paying for the construction decide. They know a lot more about the local countryside and local life than the bureaucrats at Stormont or Westminster.

    Maybe everyone should go back to a wee one-roomed sod cabin with a dirt floor and a crudely thatched roof and no grate or chimney, just a hole in the roof to let out the smoke from the pile of turf in the middle of the floor, and no windows, and a door that doesn’t fit right, and an oul’ sheugh at the bottom of the hill to serve as bath, toilet and drinking fountain. We could all pull our forelock when the landlord makes his annual rounds and tell him “Sure, ’tis an honour, Your Honour, to be here at all.” At all.

  • Crataegus

    Jim

    Your experiences mirror my own, their decisions are totally random and unpredictable and their concerns generally involve trivia. Outside conservation areas why should a house built in 2006 look like one build in 1860? Imagine we applied this to Belfast, Imagine what the Odyssey or Waterfront or any of our office blocks would look like? Why not make Frazer build terraces of 2up 2 downs? Utterly insane. A colleague wanted to build a low energy house and just gave up. If someone could tell me why a requirement to have small windows in a south facing wall should be more important than combating global warming.

    As for local politicians words simply fail me, collectively utterly pathetic.

    I am involved in some fairly substantial developments and we are factoring in periods to get statutory approvals twice the construction period!**!*!* YES TWICE THE TIME IT WILL TAKE TO BUILD These are schemes that would create employment. Something is seriously wrong.

  • richard

    The one advantage(and I believe there are very few) of northern irelands direct rule status is the ability of the minister in question to cut through the parochial political bullshit and pass this planning regulation which was desperately needed.
    If you need any evidence of how we manage to mess up planning affairs when we last controlled them, look at the impending EU fines northern ireland is to receive due to the recent revalation that members of the stormont executive decided to ignore EU laws on pollution and permit housing developments in areas such as Antrim, despite the fact that such development would increase pollution.
    The fact of the matter is, despite the hideous nature of most one off housing, (UPVC framw windows, huge tarmac driveways, cheap pebble dashing – although i agree this is a clearly subjective issue), it is completely unsustainable for people who work in urban areas to choose the countryside as their residence. One off housing encourages car dependancy, which in the age of global warming cannot be encouraged. In a one off dwelling, everything becomes a car journey, the trip to the shops, the school run etc. Furthermore, the infrastructure costs of servicing one off dwellings far exceed those of urban areas, plus they put a strain on a number of public services i.e. post, bin collections which the rest of society have to bear.
    Essentially, we will probably look back on the irish obsession with one off housing in the not to distant future and wonder what the hell was going through our heads. One more thing, the new regulations specifically permit people (i.e. farmers sons) who can prove a need to live in a rural area, such as proximity to work, to build a dwelling. What the regulations won’t do is enable farmers to sell off half acre plots to all and sundry. I have little sympathy with complaints about that, as the public has been subsidising the agricultural industry through the Common Agricultural Policy for years, with part of the aim being to look after the countryside, not sell it to the highest bidder.

  • Crataegus

    Richard

    Have you had any real dealings with the Planning Service for if you had you might have a better handle on the scale of the underlying problem? You mention Sewerage, the reason we are going to be fined is under investment for 30 years and a failure by the Planners to co ordinate between demand in rezoned land and sewerage treatment provision coupled with the failure to invest. Anglers have been raising this issue for decades. It’s not a recent problem.

    I would like to see sustainability criteria more to the fore but a blanket ban is not addressing the issues it is running from them. You could for example easily create new villages and hamlets close to railway lines or established bus routes. This would give additional choice. Also I would like to see some trial developments with environmentally friendly housing in the country and it is utterly impossible under existing guidelines.

    You mention driveways but perhaps better to focus on the Roads Service and their parking requirements for new housing. 4-5 car spaces for large dwellings? Look at what the planners are making people incorporate. Place the blame on those who make the requirement and not on those complying. Or perhaps consider the readiness to invest £29,000,000 (from memory if I am wrong it is certainly a very large figure) on one lane on the M2 from Mallusk down to Greencastle and a reluctance to invest in the railway to Larne. Where is the commitment to public transport provision?

    It doesn’t particularly matter where you live public transport is not an option for many even in the urban areas. If you live in one of the thousands of new houses between Carrick and Glengormley there is an existing railway but not one additional halt. Worse than that each plot has been developed separately so to get from one development to the next you have a long journey up to the main road and back down again. Mad.

    You don’t like farmers selling of a corner of a field; would it make any difference to you if it were a rocky corner of no agricultural use? Is it worse than someone building a house in their garden in Belfast? You believe it fine for a son of a farmer to build a house on the farm if he works on the farm (and can justify that he is needed) but not if he runs the local shop or is a vet or a solicitor?

    Why all the fuss about rural housing? We could use the same criteria to ban all development; the developments around Belfast are hardly architectural masterpieces.