Rural housing approvals down 90%

Patsy McGlone, Chair of the DRD Environment Committee, has called for radical change to rural planning. He revealed figures that less than 500 new developments have been given outline planning permission since the introduction of PPS14, compared with 5000 in the year previous to its introduction.

  • Gewurztraminer

    The 5000 figure was artificial and unsustainable. Do you know that pre-PPS14 there were 3 times as many planning approvals for single houses in the countryside in Northern Ireland than in England, Scotland and Wales combined?

    Think about that. Less than 10% of the land area of the UK is accounting for three quarters of new single rural dwellings.

    OK, land patterns in Ireland (North and South) are different from GB and perhaps there should be proportionately more houses built here – but the ridiculous disproportionality had to be curtailed.

    No one has the god given right to build, build and build again. Once land is built upon it cannot be returned to agriculture or nature.

    To keep on building would require massive investment in public transport, sewerage and water infrastructure, new schools etc. etc. etc. Who will pay for this?

    Our political leaders need to grow up, be strategic and start taking the long view.

  • Maggot

    Good news.

    Let’s try and save what little countryside we have left – and anyway, houses will soon be unsellable. Let’s not pretend that these houses are for the agricultural or rural community so they can work locally. They are mainly for site sales at exorbitant prices to outsiders who will commute.

    if it’s about housing for locals – lets see a law that farmers can only charge agricultural land prices for building sites.

    Would local government tolerate that ? No back-handers ?

  • interested

    If you pay a back hander to a local councillor for a planning application then you’re a fool.

  • interested

    Just on a point of accuracy, Patsy McGlone isn’t chair of DRD but of DOE.

  • Crataegus

    You need housing in rural areas the question is how. Also there is a housing shortage in NI and we are not achieving the build rate required.

    Current policy of restriction is lack off policy. Why not allow proposals for sustainable hamlets and new villages based on tight criteria on density proximity to public transport etc. The original policy of sitting houses all over the place was plain daft. We need a new policy that has some opportunity and flexibility and that meets our overall objectives. One that does not cause rural stagnation.

    There are major problems ahead in Belfast metropolitan area caused by current policy or lack of policy. The aim is to increase density but there are no overall all guidelines that say lower Castlereagh Road can be 6-8? storeys high and requires reduced parking. Time we learnt from Nash, John Woods and Haussmann. Set the heights and design criteria increase the densities and ensure that the ground floors retain commercial usage. Do this and we may end up with something of note like Paris, Bath or Regents Street. The way we are heading at present it is going to be a mess. Also can the existing sewerage treatment plants and sewers in Belfast cope with increased density? I have my doubts so do we have a policy based on a false premise?

    Planning should be about co-ordination and achieving objectives. Can someone please tell me what the objectives of the Planning Service actually are?

  • Donnie

    Patsy must have a few sites for sale!

    These single dwellings do little to alleviate the housing shortage as they are inevitably at the upper end of the market (£350k plus) and are well out of reach to those not on or on the lower rungs of the property ladder.

    Release land by all means, but for reasonably priced developments only and allow these people to get on the property ladder. Will it happen? I doubt – unfortunately our MLA’s have a vested interest in the property market too!

  • Donnie

    What Crataegus said – more houses in the countryisde just not one-off 4 and 5 bedroom houses scattered throughtout the fields.

    Why would anyone argue that this is not a sane and reasonable solution to the housing problem in NI?!

  • IJP

    My instinctive reaction is “good”.

    My thought-out reaction is similar to Crat‘s.

  • wild turkey


    from their website the aim of the planning service is

    “Our aim is to plan and manage development in ways which will contribute to a quality environment and seek to meet the economic and social aspirations of present and future generations.”

    I have been to many IHOPs (Int’l House of Pancakes) in my time but have rarely been served up such waffle, especially with mom and apple pie on the side!

    Anyway, I am none the wise as to (a) what the plan is and (b) how they (cough) manage development and (c) how they exactly ascertain economic and social aspirations. I’ve never been asked. Have you?

  • tourist

    At last the bungalow blitz has been halted.With the decline of industry here the House of Commons Select Committee in 1992 recognized our environment as our bigest asset and little has been done since.At last we have a proper green belt policy in place and planning service can concentrate on quality development.
    Our PPS 14 is now well regarded compared with the South where the continued descretion of the countryside goes on unabated.We may be able to attract more tourism in the future and compete better with the South,all we need now is better infrastructure and less offensive flags and emblems.Some tourists last week couldn’t get a cup of tea at the Giants Causeway last week and
    Tourist Board are still using photos from the 80s to promote our scenic areas which have since been hit by the developers.
    Roll on the EPA

  • Planner

    Hi everyone, I’m a planning officer working within the Planning Service, for obvious reasons I can’t give my name or a contact. PPS 14 was primarily a stick for Hain to beat SF and the DUP with into doing a deal, just like water charges. It’s going to be heavily watered down in the coming months, into what we don’t know yet but I suspect that there will be a proviso to allow houses to be approved to meet the needs of disabled or seriously ill people and that all approvals will have a clause restricting their occupancy to the applicant, making them worthless on the open market.

    Much of the current over development in rural areas is the direct result of the actions of Planning Service over the last 15 years. There where policies in the Rural Strategy that could have stopped many of the worst rural houses from being built, but planners at the time just took the easy way out and approved them so as not to annoy the councillors.

    Oh Wild Turkey, you’re absolutely right, our aim is a load of crap! Our management do pay it the slightest bit of notice!

  • wild turkey

    Mr Mrs or Ms Angry Planner

    I admire your cajones.

    Thanks for the compliment (?) However, does or does not your management pay the stated aim of the service the slightest notice?

    As an ex-employee in the public sector I have spent an excessive amount of time in senior management sessions indulging in the now de rigueur exercise of intellectual handjobbery in coming up with mission statements, aims, objectives, targets and oh yeah, performance measures.

    A suggestion? Perhaps you could, if it doesn’t compromise your position, elaborate on Slugger the Hain stick to beat SF and DUP… an interesting insight.

    It is Friday evening and I am off now to have a large dram of my namesake

    Good luck

  • wild turkey


    ‘With the decline of industry here the House of Commons Select Committee in 1992 recognized our environment as our bigest asset’ Decline of heavy industry (engineering, clothing/textile based industry was a non-starter in 1982!) ignores the secular growth across most economies of the ‘service’ economy. Hence, your remark about tea?
    In any case I thought ‘our biggest asset’ was human capital. People!! People who do need a place to live.

    ‘Our PPS 14 is now well regarded compared with the South’ Well regarded by whom? And why?

    ‘Some tourists last week couldn’t get a cup of tea at the Giants Causeway ‘ Agreed. Service and product there tends to be over-priced and shite.

    But tourist, I get the sense, if we have more infrastructure, etc. etc. what is being advocated is a reservation tourist mentality (native american, aboriginal, does it matter?) where the the affluent/effluent tourist can gaze, graze and sip their tea in comfort…. regardless of how the natives live.

    with respect, and I am playing the ball and not the man, but in the words of my main man J P McEnroe

    You cannot be serious

  • No wonder we can’t have a sensible debate when risibly wrong statements like this go unchallenged. Have you never been to the West of Ireland? Go to somewhere like Leitrim, land that was once amongst the most heavily populated rural territory in the world, now all but wilderness.

  • Aquifer

    “all approvals will have a clause restricting their occupancy to the applicant, making them worthless on the open market.”

    I doubt it.

    Look at the building rates in Donegal, Sligo, Galway, West Cork etc over the last five years, and then think of adding another 50 or 100 years of the same. A scrappy suburb of what exactly? Knock Airport? fast food joints and video stores as service centres for commuters out of time and brain dead?

    We left the countryside because it was poverty stricken and limiting and culturally repressive.

    Look at the parties who would have us live there again and then pay through the nose for the consequences.

    The developing world is the urbanising world, and they ain’t wrong.

  • páid

    Agreed Sammy.

    But those Leitrim folk drove no cars, imported no goods and left hardly a mark on Leitrim.

    Old bones in overgrown graveyards.

    OK. Genuine cases, grant permission.

    But what happened south of the border in the last 20 years was shite. We all love Ireland, the North Eastern bit has a chance not to ruin it.

  • Crataegus

    The idea that development in the country is bad is fallacious. The problem is bad and inappropriate development be it in the country or in the urban area. We need houses to live in, offices and factories to work in and shops, schools churches etc. As the population increases we need to build the necessary accommodation. If you skew development patterns by restricting over very large areas in NI you are making far reaching decisions that influence the economic base and viability of communities. I wouldn’t advocate a free for all, but if there is demand and need then we have to accept that there must be change the problem is managing it and ensuring coordination and quality.
    The fundamental weakness of the Planning system is that it tries to achieve by restriction and I am not convinced that that is good enough. Equally I have doubts about the range of skills in, and available to, the Planning Service. There is also an increasing potential for conflict between planning requirements and Building Control requirements. A planners opinion may be made without proper knowledge of potential conflict or knowledge of Health and Safety considerations. In my view planners need to concentrate on coordination and get out of much of the trivia. There needs to be a rationalisation of all the government and council bodies associated with development. Currently it is hopelessly fragmented and this is to no one’s benefit.
    Wild Turkey
    “Our aim is to plan and manage development in ways which will contribute to a quality environment and seek to meet the economic and social aspirations of present and future generations.”
    Anyway, I am none the wise as to (a) what the plan is and (b) how they (cough) manage development and (c) how they exactly ascertain economic and social aspirations. I’ve never been asked. Have you?
    I agree an utter load of bull, but so is most of what they produce.

    I am a developer and been at it for quite a while. I employ people to go through the subjective rubbish that the Planning Service produce and indeed have the utter misfortune of having to read it myself. 90% of it is tedious waffle, platitudes and repetition. Someone with editing skills should go through it and make it succinct and while we are at it we don’t need photographs and drawings in full colour. If you need this comic book style to comprehend then you should employ someone who doesn’t. Why the hell is a government body producing such documents, self promotion?

    I have come to the conclusion that the Planning Service has no idea what they are there to achieve, they have no clear measurable and achievable objectives that I can see. Ask yourself has 30 years of the Planning Service created a quality environment? Has it managed to ensure that development and services are coordinated?

    Tourist Let me get this right you would prefer not to see any new housing in the countryside. New villages and hamlets don’t do anything for you as you prefer the pristine beauty of nature improved by man as exemplified by our rural landscape? I take it from that then you have no objection to the increase in density of development across existing urban areas. We need dwellings so they have to be built somewhere. Would you object if the house beside where you live was demolished for say 6 apartments or your neighbour built a house in their back garden?
    Also where are rural families to live? Are we just to accommodate more and more people in the Belfast Metropolitain Area with all the implications that ensue from such a policy.
    Believe me we could massively increase the number of houses in rural areas and you wouldn’t notice, but it has to be done right and not all rural NI is of outstanding natural beauty. Also a lot of the new dwellings will in time blend in as they weather down and hedges and screen planting grow.

    You have my utmost sympathy, if you are young get out. Unless there is a serious shake out at the top there is no future in that Department and job satisfaction must be close to zero. Sad really as I for one would like to see us all achieving something noteworthy.

  • tourist

    PPS 14 was acclaimed recently in The Irish Times as being more farsighted in protecting the countryside in comparison with the descreation experienced in the South.With the Celtic Tiger economy in the South creating infrastructure problems ie congetion and environmental damage we in the North may be able to get ahead on the environment and actually make an effort in attracting the unwelcome tourist.
    Develpoemt mus be encouraged in towns;brownfield development was recognized by the last assembly as preferable to greenfield and was to be encouraged in a recent study which showed Belfast as the least densely populated city in UK.What about eco villages as espoused recently by Gordon Bronw and followed by by UUP’s environment spokesman. More social Housing is important and the PPS could be relaxed in certain areas eg around crossroads where hamlets have grown into villages.

  • PPS14 was a sensible piece of legislation but the vested interests that lobby for all those lucrative site developments will ensure that soon, very soon, we will see our countryside torn apart as the political class earn the erm…plaudits..of the greedy farmers and developers.