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Row over bid to ban Northern Ireland's 'bungalow blight'

A bitter fight is under way in Northern Ireland over a proposed planning regulation that would ban almost all construction in the province's countryside.

Planning Policy Statement 14 (PPS14) - peculiar to Northern Ireland - was unveiled at the end of last month to dismay from many members of the architectural community in the province.

The document, produced by Northern Ireland environment minister Jeff Rooker, introduces a blanket ban on rural construction in a bid to bring to an end what is known as 'bungalow blight'.

The minister, based in London, stated when unveiling the scheme that he was determined to kill off the widespread development on land that is traditionally designated either rural or agricultural.

The move has been greeted with wildly differing opinions from the province's profession. While some Northern Irish architects have started a campaign to get PPS14 reversed, others, such as the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA), are keen to see the planning policy enacted.

One of the architects leading the campaign to see it overturned is Alan Jones, founding partner of Alan Jones Architects.

Jones argues, with support from other practitioners, that the history of rural development in Northern Ireland has more in common with Switzerland than England.

In a letter to Rooker that he and others are signing, he says the scattered nature of these homes should be respected.

'I believe that- PPS14 will damage the very environment that it sets out to protect,' the letter says.

'The current proposals are too sweeping, too restrictive and take no account of their impact on the rural economy, on house prices generally, or on the history and social life of rural dwellers,' it adds.

But it has emerged that the RSUA is set to back the plans. Practice committee convenor Clyde Markwell said he was largely in favour.

'We cannot just go on building everywhere - there has definitely been too much sprawl,' he said. 'Something had to be done about it.

'The policy should help control this development,' he added.

by Ed Dorrell

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