Under the current 2005 guidelines on sustainable rural housing, planning authorities are required to frame the planning policies in their development plans in a balanced and measured way that ensures the housing needs of rural communities are met while avoiding excessive urban-generated housing and haphazard development, particularly in those areas near cities and towns that are under extreme pressure from urban-generated development.
Following engagement between the European Commission and my Department on the European Court of Justice ruling in the "Flemish decree" case, a working group was established to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 planning guidelines on sustainable rural housing, issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. The working group comprises senior officials from the planning division of my Department and senior officials from the planning divisions of local authorities nominated by the local government sector.
The objective is to ensure that rural housing policies and objectives contained in local authority development plans comply with the relevant provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The national planning framework, NPF, also provides an important context for the finalisation of the revisions to the 2005 rural housing guidelines. National policy objective 15 of the NPF fully supports the concept of the sustainable development of rural areas by encouraging growth and arresting decline in areas that have experienced low population growth or decline in recent decades, while simultaneously indicating the need to manage certain areas around cities and towns that are under strong urban influence and under pressure from unco-ordinated and ribbon-type development, in order to avoid overdevelopment of those areas. Accordingly, the NPF objectives are aligned with the approach already expected of planning authorities under the planning guidelines.
Taking account of the engagement with the European Commission on the matter and subject to the completion of the ongoing deliberations by the working group, I expect to be in a position shortly to finalise and issue to planning authorities revisions to the 2005 rural housing guidelines that take account of the relevant European Court of Justice judgment.
We do not envisage the need for a public consultation, at least at this moment in time, but we can certainly see what the working group concludes and have a discussion here or in committee. I do not think we will need that, though. We should be okay. We can have the conversation here or in committee-----