Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

More freedom needed in planning rules

Letters to the editor should be sent to: 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1 1EB. E-mail: writeback@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

The impression given by many contributors to the planning debate is that more regulation is needed to deal with bungalow blight, destruction of heritage and environmental problems.

However, most of our problems have arisen in a very tight regulatory system which has many principles but significantly lacks any principle of freedom.

Very few area plans contain useful information, such as the capacity of sewerage, water and electricity supplies to support new developments.

The most serious planning blunders, like field by field development, arise from the planning system itself. The bungalow blight that people complain about can often be traced to planners' ideas that people in rural areas should live in modernised hovels like farm workers of old.

Donegal is often quoted as a county of hillside haciendas and other monstrosities, but the fact is that many beautiful and comfortable houses have sprung up in the county.

There are many issues about building in the countryside which do not get aired, such as the road system and the expense of extending public water supplies.

There is a great outcry about heritage and the need to list everything over 50 years old, yet the 'Seamus Heaney slept here' conservationists have allowed some fine houses in Belfast to be destroyed in favour of high density housing and apartments.

The planners are very concerned about keeping town centres viable without any appreciation that buildings, and the road systems that serve them, can become obsolete.

The current planning debate lacks a freedom dimension, a recognition of the need to innovate in buildings and layout.

John McCrory, Strabane

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