Planning Policy Statement 21: Policy CTY 10
I thank the Member for his question. Again, this is a question for which, if there are examples that Members think require further interrogation, at either ministerial level or by senior management, especially given that PPS 21 is a new policy, I am willing to undertake that. Members will know of cases in which I have interrogated what is going on to determine whether PPS 21 is being interpreted properly. There are issues of interpretation; that is why training on PPS 21 was rolled out last autumn; that is why there are monthly peer reviews of cases from district offices to see whether the policy is consistent; and that is why I have undertaken an operational review. That review has gone on for a while, because I want to make sure that, given that the policy is new, I have a significant evidence base from which to draw conclusions. Although I believe that PPS 21 is working in the round, as the evidence of approval suggests, I have no doubt that, at the very least, fine-tuning is required.
Mervyn Storey (DUP)
I thank the Minister for his answer, and his commitment to look at whether there are specific issues. Although there seems to be a willingness on the part of the Minister, when it comes to senior planning officers, there seems to be a different interpretation in different locations —
Mervyn Storey (DUP)
— of CTY 10. In considering CTY 10, will the Minister look at how his Department is interpreting CTY 13, which is linked by the issue of integration? If there is no principal dwelling on a location, there is a requirement to make an application on the basis of integration.
I do think that senior management in the Planning Service gets the ambition and best practice of PPS 21. However, there is a bit of a learning curve in some divisional offices on best deployment and best practice when operating PPS 21.
I recall a meeting with Mr Elliott, councillors of his party from Fermanagh and others, including agents, that put a spotlight on particular applications of the policy. That was very useful, and will, I hope, be reflected in the operational review once it has been concluded.
Yes, the matter raised by the Member will require further attention. However, I undertake to give it further attention.
Sandra Overend (UUP)
Will the Minister insist on a more flexible interpretation of the policy to allow a dwelling to be built slightly further away from the farm dwelling, often in a much better, integrated site and not be the immediate neighbour of a slurry pit or cattle shed?
I have been in Omagh with the Member’s father looking at an example of the very point that she raises.
I need to be mindful of the fact that there was a lot of controversy around PPS 21. There was toing and froing and various versions, and, ultimately, it was the product of not only the Minister of the Environment but an Executive subcommittee. Given that it is a relatively new policy, I need to be very mindful of not trying to drive a coach and horses through it. If I did, I would be hostile to the ambition, as agreed by the Executive, and I would leave the policy open to more and more legal challenge. Therefore I am going to be judicious.
However, I believe that there are issues in respect of the location of the accommodation, clustering, being at a crossroads and the precise interpretation of the fine detail of the policy which, I believe, on the far side of an operation review, will address some of the issues of consistency and some of the issues of interpretation but will not lead to every application being approved. At the moment, the approval rate is well over 80%. I think that that is testament to the policy working well, by and large, but I have no doubt that there will be a number of cases, perhaps as indicated in the Member’s question, in which some further interpretation and consistency are needed.