14 October 2014

Question Time: Environment 13 October 2014


The Minister of the Environment, Mark H Durkan MLA, stated that he was extremely concerned by the number of road deaths this year. He also stated that his Department continues to take a range of actions to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads.  Over 100 of the 224 action measures in the Road Safety Strategy to 2020 have been completed. He also stated that during times of recession drivers are more fuel efficient which would have seen a reduction in speeding and an overall reduction in distances travelled; hence the reasons for the fall in road casualties in the period 2009-2012.

The Minister was asked how his Department is engaging with rural communities regarding the right of non-farming rural dwellers to build and live in the countryside.

The previous Minister of the Environment again considered this issue as part of his review into the operation of PPS 21.  That review reported in July 2013.  As part of the review, he met former members of the IWG to hear, at first hand, their expert perspectives on the matter.  The advice was reiterated that the term "non-farming rural dweller" is difficult to interpret and define and should not, therefore, be used to create a special category of planning policy. 
Notwithstanding the above, Members will be aware that my Department recently consulted upon a draft strategic planning policy statement (SPPS) for Northern Ireland.  The SPPS consolidates and, where necessary, updates existing policy provisions set out within the current suite of planning policy statements, including those in PPS 21, 'Sustainable Development in the Countryside'.  As part of this process, I gave an undertaking to this Chamber that the SPPS should adequately meet the needs of current and future generations of farming and non-farming rural dwellers seeking permission to build in the countryside. 
My officials are analysing all the responses, which will be carefully considered, and a synopsis will be made available to the Environment Committee.  Once this exercise is complete, I will decide on the final policy direction in respect of non-farming rural dwellers and the SPPS overall.
During topical questions the Minster covered planning approval in the Dunfield Terrace of Derry; a Planning Application for Strandview, Portstewart; Social Housing for Enniskillen; new rates billing system under RPA; October Monitoring Round: DOE Implications.

You can read the full transcript on our website.