Northern Ireland Planning Service

Planning Legislation

The 1931 Planning and Housing Act (NI) was the first piece of planning legislation in Northern Ireland.  Planning functions were the responsibility of the 37 local government areas consisting of County Borough Councils, County Councils, and Borough and Urban District Councils.  Subsequently the 1944 Planning (Interim Development) Act (Northern Ireland) gave an important statutory baseline to the development control system.
Following the 1970 Macrory Commission review of local government, planning became a central government responsibility under the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1972.  The Town and Country Planning Service was established in 1973 within the Ministry of Development and then within the Department of Housing, Local Government and Planning before being absorbed into the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland which became the sole planning authority in Northern Ireland responsible under the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 for planning matters.
The most recent reform of the planning system in Northern Ireland is set within the context of local government reform which will see responsibility for the majority of planning functions move from the Department of the Environment to the new 11 councils in April 2015.  Local representatives will become the decision takers on the majority of planning applications and will set the context for these decisions through their new local development plan functions.  Central government will also have a new role to play in the oversight of a two-tier system of planning.

Current Planning Legislation

Links to the current Planning Legislation are listed below:

New Planning Legislation from 1 April 2015

Planning Act (NI) 2011
The Planning Act (NI) 2011 received Royal Assent on 4 May 2011 and provides for the transfer of the majority of planning functions from central government to district councils on 1 April 2015.  It also brings forward a number of reforms to the planning system.  The 2011 Act and the  Explanatory Notes are available on the Government's legislation website (  The Explanatory Notes were prepared by the Department in order to assist the reader of the Act.  They do not form part of the Act and have not been endorsed by the NI Assembly.  The Notes should be read in conjunction with the 2011 Act.
Subordinate Legislation
The new subordinate legislation was subjected to two public consultations.  The consultation papers and the Department’s response to the comments received on the Phase 1 proposals can be viewed via the following links:
The new subordinate legislation made under the 2011 Act has been published on the Government’s legislation website (  The links below contain copies of both the legislation and the associated explanatory memorandums (the explanatory memorandums also contain a copy of the associated regulatory impact assessment).