Minister Andrew Muir MLA has responded to The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) publishing the Rural Needs Annual Monitoring Report April 2022- March 2023 today (Wednesday, March 13).

Minister Muir addressed the Northern Ireland Assembly with a written statement.

The minister said: “The combination of geographical isolation, fewer public transport links and low population density, often impacts people in rural areas to access public services.

“Therefore, adopting the same approach to public service delivery in these areas, as in urban areas, may not always be appropriate.

“The Rural Needs Impact Assessment process ensures that public authorities understand the impact of their policies in rural areas, and considers how any differential impact might be addressed, so that the communities are not disadvantaged.”

The Act, formed in 2016, places a duty on public authorities to have due regard to countryside needs when developing, implementing, revising or adopting policies, strategies and plans.

The Act also is to have a regard when designing and delivering public services, and the report contains information on how this duty is fulfilled. 

Minister Muir

Continuing his statement, the minister said:

“The report includes details of 502 assessments, including 165 undertaken by NI government departments, 162 undertaken by local councils and 175 undertaken by other public authorities.”

He added that the “diverse” range of activities covered indicates that the act is now “well-embedded” within public authorities, and policymakers are more aware of the needs of people in these areas.

The Rural Annual Monitoring Report

The Rural Needs Act (NI) formed in 2016 and was introduced with the aim of delivering fairer outcomes for rural communities in NI, by ensuring that the social and economic needs of people in these areas are given attention by public authorities.

The Rural Needs Annual Monitoring Report provides a record of all Rural Needs Impact Assessments undertaken by public authorities, and contains information on how the areas have been considered by public authorities when developing policies.

The process of creating the report, DAERA previously said, helps to ensure that public authorities understand the impact of their decisions on these communities.