NI Planning To Adopt 'Town Centres First' Policy

The Department of the Environment has said Northern Ireland's planning system could be reformed to adopt a "town centres first" policy.

Environment Minister Mark Durkan has announced a 12-week public consultation on issues such as building in the countryside, tourism, transport, telecommunications and housing.

A new strategic policy on Town Centres and Retailing is also being proposed, which will aim to adopt a "town centre first approach for the location of future retail and other town centre uses."

The Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) will seek to speed up planning and make it "simpler", the DOE said.

Mark H Durkan said: "SPPS sets out a new planning policy framework that delivers for business, with timely decisions that encourage investment and facilitate employment whilst protecting our environment, planet and people. It provides clarity and certainty for all users of the reformed planning system. I pledged last month to speed up planning. SPPS is a key building block in achieving that pledge.

"This is an exciting time for planning. I encourage everyone with an interest to contribute their views to this important consultation through our digital on line interactive portal. By working together, we can shape planning policy to ensure an efficient and fit for purpose planning system which delivers for all. My vision is for a better environment and a stronger economy. SPPS will help achieve that."

The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) welcomed the announcement.

Its Chief Executive, Glyn Roberts, said: "NIIRTA strongly welcomes this new 'Town Centre First' approach for major retail applications in the new Single Planning Policy Statement. This is something we have been campaigning for over a dozen years and is good news for local traders and town centres.

"Northern Ireland has not only the highest shop vacancy rate in the UK, but twice the UK national average. This is again supported by the GL Hearn research which was released today showing towns such as Ballymoney having a staggering 28% vacancy rate.

"We are very clear. NIIRTA want to see major retailers locate their stores in town centres to enhance them, rather than unsustainable out of town locations which destroy jobs and local businesses."


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

13 March 2020
Nine New Covid-19 Cases Identified
Nine new cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in Northern Ireland. Work is underway to establish any contacts the individuals have had. It's unclear as yet whether the cases confirm the beginning of community transmission. A total of 321 people have been tested in recent weeks, of which 29 were positive.
11 March 2020
New Belfast-Liverpool Ferry Launches
In a week full of bad news for NI-UK connectivity, Stena Line has set out to redefine ferry travel on the Irish Sea with a new state-of-the-art ship. The biggest ferry to ever sail the Belfast to Liverpool route, the Stena Edda embarked on its maiden voyage from Merseyside to Belfast on Monday evening.
10 March 2020
Covid-19: Four New NI Cases
Four new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Northern Ireland. The Department of Health said the presumed positive cases are all adults. One individual had recently travelled from northern Italy while three others can be traced to previously reported cases of those who recently visited the region.
29 April 2010
Protest Follows Planning Service Cuts
Protest action takes place today as the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has become the latest body to criticise the NI Planning Service's bid to redeploy as many as one in three of its employees.
28 January 2005
Belfast ‘Big Two’ drawn together in cross-border cup
Belfast’s ‘Big Two’ have been drawn together in the new cross-border Setanta Cup. Both Linfield and Glentoran have been drawn in the same group as FAI Cup winners Longford for the new tournament which begins in March. In the other group Portadown face Eircom League winners Shelbourne and Cork with all games being played on a home and away basis.