Irwin voices concern on planning rules on farms

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has said he is concerned by a Planning Advice Note (PAN) issued from Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon to local Council planning services as he feels it will be a backwards step for farming families in the future.

Mr Irwin said he had spoken to architects and farmers locally who feel that the Minister Mallon’s Advice Note on key planning policy statement 21 (PPS21) for building in the countryside would be detrimental in the longer term.

Mr Irwin said: “When the original guidance came out on building in the countryside, whereby a farmer could have a site considered for approval as a dwelling on a farm once in ten years and it was sited to cluster with existing buildings on the farm, this brought both opportunity and also its own restrictive issues. In many cases there was a difficulty in securing a mortgage as the house was being placed close to the farm structures or it was a shared access entrance.

“There have also been issues for farmers who wished to have a house on an out-farm where there was no established cluster of buildings, yet that person wanted to live on the farmland and establish farm buildings – such in the case of a new entrant. This was also fraught with difficulty.

“There have also been many situations where the siting of a house to cluster with existing buildings on the farm was a very prominent location and a better site existed a short distance away which would have integrated into the countryside much more suitably. However, in these circumstances the argument hasn’t been accepted. This is where the policy needs to be more realistic and planners handed a little leeway. This latest Advice Note from the Minister appears to be a shot across planning officer’s boughs, I don’t feel this is a positive step forward and instead it creates yet more problems.”

Mr Irwin continued: “In the instance of a dwelling infill opportunity, the Advice Note urges against planners taking in to account small outbuildings and garages in the assessment of a ‘substantially built up frontage’ and establishing whether or not a suitable infill site exists. It has been the case whereby a garage or smaller outbuilding would have been taken into account to the side of a dwelling and counted in the assessment of a continually built up frontage for infill purposes.

“This all points towards a tightening of already very restrictive building in the countryside rules and for farming families across Northern Ireland in particular, it will only make the process of development on farms must more difficult. That is simply not good news for farming families and represents yet another negative impact on farming which is one of Northern Ireland’s must important economic industries. I ask the Minister to urgently rethink this Advice Note and help sustain our countryside for future generations as opposed to placing yet further restrictions on rural living.”