Ex-industrial sites 'must maintain business links'
The Department of Environment has said former industrial sites have to be used for economic purposes, which will aid job opportunities.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said he was clarifying planning policy "to help businesses develop".
Previously, land which had formerly been used for business or industry could go on to be used for any type of development.
But following yesterday's clarification, land which is cleared of an economic development must still be used for "economic purposes".
Mr Attwood said: "I am now making sure that if buildings are removed, any replacement will facilitate further employment opportunities. This will allow people to have access to jobs in their area which supports the local economy."
Angela Morrison, an associate director at planning specialists Turley Associates, said the statement "closed a loophole" which arose after planning permission was granted on appeal for a residential development on the Drumahoe Industrial Estate, Londonderry.
"This statement from the minister provides certainty as to the policy context within which new development proposals on unzoned industrial sites will be considered."
Eamonn Loughrey, head of the Belfast office of planning consultants DPP, said the clarification risked accusations that the DoE was providing planning policy "on the hoof".
"The clarification also raises a number of inconsistencies with other planning policies by only seeking to ensure that industry is allowed to be developed on previous industrial land.
"This, however, contradicts other objectives which seek to make best use of brown field land, which is often not based on industry but developments such as schools, hospitals and housing."