The draft PPS21 guidelines on building houses in the countryside were launched this week by environment minister Sammy Wilson.
PPS21 replaces PPS14, which was found unlawful last year after it was wrongly issued by the Department for Regional Development rather than the Department of the Environment (Planning, 14 September 2007, p1). Wilson's predecessor Arlene Foster began a review of the policy earlier this year but was moved on in a reshuffle.
PPS14 has proved divisive. Northern Ireland Assembly members from the west of the province want to relax the policy but constituencies in the more urban east seek to retain stricter guidelines.
Wilson insisted that he has "struck a balance". He said: "We have kept what was useful from the draft PPS14 but cast aside overly restrictive policies imposed by direct rule ministers.
"The Planning Service now holds in abeyance more than 2,000 applications that would have been refused under the draft PPS14. These can now be reassessed under the new policy. Some, though by no means all, are likely to be recommended for approval," Wilson added.
PPS21 will apply across the province with the exception of protected landscapes such as the High Mournes and Slieve Gullion. Consultation will run until 31 March.
PPS21 is available at PlanningResource.co.uk/doc.