The SDLP Assembly Member John Dallat is urging more people to make better use of buildings in the countryside by converting them into living accommodation.
In response to a written question from the East Derry Assembly Member the Minister Alex Atwood has offered the following advice.
“The Department of the Environment provides funding for the repair and maintenance of listed buildings, including those in rural areas. However, this does not include financial incentives specifically for the improved use of buildings in rural areas for accommodation.
“The current planning policy supports development proposals for the conversion and reuse of existing buildings in the countryside for the purpose of providing residential accommodation, including proposals for the use of existing buildings for tourism purposes.”
This has been welcomed by Mr Dallat who said: “There is a belief that the current planning policies placed an almost complete ban on building in rural areas and many people are unaware that the policy supports the sympathetic conversion and re-use of existing buildings in the countryside through policies dealing with replacements, conversions and reuse of existing buildings as well as farm diversification.
“People should look at all the options before making any decision about planning and while detailed information is on the Planning Service web our councillors are always available to share their experiences of the planning laws as they currently apply.In no case should any planning applicant be out large sums of money on planning advice which too often results in disappointment and hefty bills with no return.”