Durkan launches planning reform consultation
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has launched a 12 week consultation on proposals for planning reform and its transfer to new councils.The Minister is seeking views on the improvements he intends to introduce in planning as a result of the new two-tier system which will bring Northern Ireland into line with other jurisdictions.
Under the review of public administration (RPA), responsibility for the majority of planning functions will transfer to the new councils in April 2015 who will operate as the local planning authorities for their areas.
The changes will see the return of local accountability to the planning system. Councils will be responsible for developing their own local development plan setting the context for development proposals in the future. They will also determine the vast majority of planning applications with only a small percentage of regionally significant applications being decided by the Department of the Environment. Councils will also take the lead on all enforcement activity where there have been alleged breaches of planning control.
Mark H Durkan said: “This is an exciting time for planning and I recognise the challenges that the new reformed two-tier planning system will present to key stakeholders. Councils will be in the driving seat in drawing up a development plan for their area which reflects agreed local priorities. This work of engagement and debate will set the backdrop for development proposals and provides a great opportunity to set out the hopes and aspirations for the newly established councils.
“While my proposals lay the foundations for this longer-term place-shaping, they will also deliver immediate benefits when powers transfer to councils. They will support faster decision making which is great news for business and the economy as well as more effective enforcement as soon as councils take up the reins in April 2015. The system will also be transparent and managed within a strong system of governance and ethical requirements. I believe this will satisfy the very reasonable expectations of the public and provide strong support to councillors taking on these new responsibilities.”
The changes will improve access to, and increase participation in, the planning process as well as deliver faster and more predictable outcomes for applicants. They will also support fairer and faster appeals as well as stronger and more effective enforcement.
The 12 week public consultation runs from 28 May 2014 until 20 August 2014. For more details please visit http://www.planningni.gov.uk