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Part of Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:15 pm on 11th May 2009.

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Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 1:15 pm, 11th May 2009

I will correct the Member, as I do not want it put on the record that this is a new policy. It is not a new policy; it is guidance on, and clarification of, existing policy. We must ensure that there is consistency of application of policies such as PPS 21. Otherwise, people will ask questions about the way in which the planning system is working. Training of staff within the system by way of exchange and movement is important in achieving consistency, because it will allow staff to see what happens in different areas and offices.

There is a degree of subjectivity and discretion to the matter in hand; none of us, when asked to weigh up the same set of arguments, will come to the same decisions, because we will give weight to different aspects. Given those elements of discretion or subjectivity, it is impossible to have 100% consistency. All we can do, through building up cases and examples, is to seek to ensure that that consistency happens.

On the issue of enforcement, this guidance does not give people who have been in breach of the policy the opportunity to set aside that policy. In many enforcement situations, it will be the case that individuals, either because they could not be bothered or because they thought that they could get away with it, have not even considered the policy, or they may not even have applied for planning permission, and then they get caught. There is no point in my giving the impression that this policy will deal with such cases; it will not. I know of many examples in which more consideration could have been given to the jobs that were lost because businesses were closed down in a particular area. I hope that the guidance will help to preserve such businesses.