‘It’s not going to wash anymore’

SDLP Colr. Gus Hastings.
SDLP Colr. Gus Hastings.

SDLP Councillor Gus Hastings has warned that ‘sustainability’ must not be allowed to be used as ‘a weapon’ with which to torpedo legitimate applications to build one-off houses in Derry’s rural hinterland in the years ahead.

The Faughan District Electoral Area (DEA) councillor made the comments during a discussion of a proposed new Local Development Plan (LDP) for the city and district at Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee meeting for November.

“That word sustainability, you hear it again and again, and it has too often been used as a weapon and an excuse to do nothing,” said Colr. Hastings.

“If someone wants to build a house in the countryside, you hear sustainability again and again,” emphasised the rural councillor.

Colr. Hastings was speaking after an interim report on a 12 week consultation on a Preferred Options Paper (POP) for a new LDP, which will cover the next fifteen years, was presented to members of the council’s Planning Committee last week. According to Proinsias McCaughey, the council’s Principal Planning Officer, PPS 21, the planning policy governing ‘Sustainable Development in the Countryside’ attracted most interest from the 126 individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation.

“PPS 21 attracted the greatest level of response with issues raised divided into requests to have the future LDP rural planning policy either, retained as per PPS21, relaxed or alternatively made stricter,” councillors were advised.

The draft ‘Interim Report on Representations Received’, meanwhile, stated: “In terms of issues raised, respondents were broadly supportive of the thrust, sustainability approach and main text of the POP document and its supporting documents. The task in hand going forward will be for Council to agree and prioritise these issues raised and to facilitate those that best serve our needs in terms of our LDP, District Vision and Strategic Growth Plan. The preparation of the LDP is key to furthering sustainable development, implementing the Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) and realising our vision and aspirations as articulated through the Strategic Growth.”

Colr. Hastings, however, warned that the pursuit of sustainable development must not come at the detriment of rural communities.

“It’s not going to wash anymore,” he said. “If they can build a house and we can show that it’s within our rules we can’t rule that out.”