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Research Theme: Place, Well-being and Healthy Environment
Supervisors: Prof Aileen Stockdale ( and Linda Price (

Within a UK context, Northern Ireland has possessed a relatively liberal planning approach to house building in the open countryside with one-off housing generally permitted (although the policy has been tightened since 2015).  By comparison, elsewhere in the UK planning policy has advocated a presumption against one-off housing in the countryside in favour of the reuse or residential conversion of redundant farm buildings and small scale housing development within existing rural settlements.

The arguments for and against house building in the countryside centre on sustainability. In NI the need to maintain rural communities has been persuasive. By contrast in Scotland, England and Wales the arguments have come down on the side of landscape/ environmental protection and the economic cost of servicing a dispersed rural population.  Different approaches to the delivery of sustainable rural communities are, therefore, evident.

This PhD research seeks to evaluate the consequences of these different approaches to the sustainability of rural communities.  Inevitably it relates to the supply of and demand for affordable housing in rural areas.  Specific questions include - do the different approaches to the supply of rural housing alter the composition of rural communities?  For example, does the one-off housing permitted in Northern Ireland's countryside enable the adult children of local farm families to remain in the home community? does the presumption against such development elsewhere contribute to young adult out-migration? Is retaining a younger rural generation preferable to the in-migration of older households?  Might the effects of the different planning policies be variable depending on the degree of rurality (for example, giving rise to different outcomes in accessible and remote rural locations)?

Overall, this research project seeks to examine the rural community effects associated with  spatially / geographically different house building policies. 

How to Apply