Northern Ireland's independent retailer body says its lobbying of the Irish Assembly for a five year ban on major retail planning applications and out of town shopping developments has been successful. Bryan Gray, chief executive of the new Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said: "We hope the assembly will debate planning early this autumn." The Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland said: "Major retail development in the countryside, outside the development limits of settlements, will not be acceptable." But it said it would continue to grant planning permission for small scale rural shops. {{NEWS }}