26/02/2010

Planning Passing To Local Hands

Planning decisions are to be passed into local hands if the Stormont Minister reponsible for the issue gets his way.

Long sought by many members of the existing 26 local councils who currently have only an advisory role in such decisions, the DUP's Edwin Poots said the changes would make the planning system more proactive. The Environment Minister has said planning in Northern Ireland is set to undergo its "most sweeping reform" for 30 years.

He was speaking after the NI Executive passed a package aimed at delivering a more effective system.

He told the Royal Town Planners the changes would "affect almost every aspect of the planning system".

They will also address the transfer of the majority of planning functions to local government.

"I believe these changes offer us an unprecedented opportunity to transform our mainly regulatory planning system into a more proactive, co-ordinated and responsive system which will help to enable appropriate sustainable development," said Mr Poots.
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The news comes soon after a Stormont watchdog found the planning applications system used by the Northern Ireland Planning Service was "not fit for purpose".

In its report examining the performance of the service, the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee said it had "consistently failed" to meet targets.

Mr Poots said the new planning reform system would "substantially reduce the amount of time taken on development plans".

He said it would not be as regulatory, would be more proactive and "more fit for purpose".

The minister also added that independent assessors were being considered for area plans and major planning applications.

"We are looking at bringing in independent assessors because not only has the planning service struggled with the fact that planning applications doubled over a very short period of time, but the Planning Appeals Commission has struggled as well," he said.

See: NI Planning Service Slammed By Committee

(BMcC/GK)

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