UFU pleased rural planning advice is to be withdrawn

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is pleased that the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) has made the decision to withdraw ‘Planning Advice Note (PAN) – Implementation of Strategic Planning Policy’. It was issued on 2 August 2021.

UFU deputy president David Brown said:“The UFU alongside local councils and other stakeholders have successfully lobbied for PAN to be withdrawn.

“We were very worried about this guidance which the DfI put forward to councils, asking them to change their approach to assessing planning applications under PPS 21.

“If it had of been implemented, it would have resulted in applications for clusters and infill dwellings being refused, and dwellings on farms would have to be visually linked to the farmyard with no consideration given to other suitable sites on the farm, nor issues around mortgages or values.”

He continued: “We are pleased that the DfI has taken our concerns on board. More than one generation needs to be able to live on farm, and for health and safety reasons, it is not always possible to link a new dwelling to the farmyard.

“Not to mention, banks are not granting mortgages for self builds on farms as they aren’t saleable in a forced sale situation.”

David Brown continued: “While the PAN has been withdrawn, moving forward it is vital that property development in the countryside is logical and sustainable. If members are designing a home for planning permission in the countryside, we encourage them to be mindful that the building needs to fit in with the local area. This is a vital part of getting planning permission.”

The Department for Infrastructure decided to withdraw the aforementioned Planning Advice Note last Friday (15th October).

A spokesperson for the Department said: “The intention of the advice note was to assist with ensuring a consistent interpretation of the policy by re-emphasising and clarifying certain fundamental aspects of it in order to have a positive impact on the planning system overall and our rural communities. The PAN did not add to or change existing planning policy.

“The Department had not expected such a significant response to what is essentially an advice note to support the efficient and effective workings of the two-tier planning system.”

The spokesperson added: “Regrettably, rather than bringing certainty and clarity, as was its intention, the PAN seems to have created confusion and uncertainty.

“The Department has listened carefully to and reflected on all the concerns and has decided to withdraw the PAN today to swiftly restore clarity to this situation.”

According to DfI, the current Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) does and should continue to provide opportunities for sustainable development in the countryside in general, including for farming families and other rural dwellers, striking a balance between supporting and sustaining rural communities and protecting the countryside from inappropriate development.

All stakeholders in the planning system have an important role to play in achieving this objective in the long term public interest. However, there is a particularly important onus on local planning authorities to take all possible steps to ensure that in decision-taking and plan-making they properly and faithfully take account of the SPPS overall.

Similarly, in relation to planning appeals and in terms of the independent examination of Local Development Plans the Planning Appeals Commission has an equally important responsibility.

The DfI spokesperson concluded: “The Department will now take stock of the concerns raised and undertake further engagement and analysis on this important policy area, to include consideration of current and emerging issues, such as the climate emergency and a green recovery from this pandemic.”