Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Fear that property speculation is ruining Ulster's countryside

A huge surge in applications for bungalows in Northern Ireland means thousands of the homes are set to be built in the countryside because they scraped in before a controversial ban.

The number of bungalows approved is expected to soar again if Planning Policy Statement 14, which sought to strictly limit single dwellings in the countryside, is overturned as expected by Stormont.

PPS 14 was introduced following an upsurge which saw 9,500 single houses approved in 2004/05 as landowners sought to capitalise on sites that are often worth more than £200,000.

Thousands more applications submitted before the ban will be considered under the old, more liberal rules.

Conservationists fear that tens of thousands of bungalows will be built over the coming years, even if the ban remains.

Many thousands have already been built, and there are reports of some developers buying scores of sites off farmers.

In addition, hundreds of rural house applications submitted after the ban was introduced are nonetheless being approved because they meet the new, stricter criteria. The volume of applications for single dwellings is contributing to the huge backlog in planning.

If the pre-ban rate of approvals had continued, 100,000 bungalows would have been approved in a decade. Despite this increase in single dwellings politicians in Stormont are determined to scrap the ban.

They say rural residents must have the opportunity to build in the countryside so farming communities remain vibrant.

But environmentalists are dismayed. Green Assembly member Brian Wilson said: "Some of those opposed to PPS 14 are being totally insincere. It is not about saving the rural community but promoting property speculation on a massive scale."

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