After two months, Northern Ireland’s politicians had the opportunity to debate Jeff Rooker’s draft proposals for tightening regulation on rural developement. A DUP amendment to Patsy McGlone’s motion critical of Rooker’s draft was carried 35 to 17. Bob McCartney noted that there had been a surge in applications “from 3,000 to 8,500 — on the basis of farmers’ sons and daughters suddenly deciding that they require planning permission” Sinn Fein boycotted the debate.It’s worth reading the Hansard at length, but one contribution that leapt out is from Derry DUP MLA Willie Hay:
Today’s debate has been a lively one. Rural planning in Northern Ireland raises many emotions amongst public representatives. The difficulties, however, have been compounded over the years by the fact that many of us, who also served as rural councillors, have only been bystanders to some of the decisions made by planners. As we know, local government in Northern Ireland has only been allowed a consultative role with planners.
As public representatives, we know that, for a number of years, planners have acted like dictators in relation to many applications. In my constituency of Foyle, there was an unwritten rule that when a planning application was first submitted to the council, a member could persuade the planners to meet in order to resolve issues for the applicant. Local planners now refuse to allow that; they tell us the office meetings and site meetings that they will attend. That is totally wrong.