Northern Ireland Planning Service

Attwood unlocking long standing large scale planning applications

Published on Mon, 6 Feb 2012
Environment Minister Alex Attwood today pledged that he would continue to clear up the backlog of decisions on major planning applications.
At present there are 50 ‘Article 31s’ and the Minister has pledged to reduce these by up to two thirds by the end of June.
These large scale applications relate to retail, leisure and other commercial and industrial proposals which are dealt with under the special procedures set out in Article 31 of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991. These procedures allow the Department to either directly make a decision or hold a public inquiry.
Alex Attwood said: “On 1 January 2012 there were 55 Article 31 applications which needed to be determined as a matter of priority. Last month I was able to dispose of five including approval for three – the redevelopment of Ravenhill Rugby Ground, a new cemetery and crematorium at Moria and a major hotel proposal in Lisburn.
“I intend to accelerate this, with up to eight further decisions in February. This will deal with 25% of the Article 31 applications in two months.
“In the coming months I intend to make decisions on many more of these applications with a view to unlocking the economic benefits generated by those that can be approved and protecting the environment going forward. I am conscious that there are competing retail proposals in various locations and that it will not be appropriate to approve all of these.
“However, I have asked officials to carefully consider each case and bring forward recommendations based on analysis of the capacity of the town or city in question to accommodate further retail floor space without adverse impact on the main shopping centre – this includes Derry and Magherafelt."
The Minister continued: “Since becoming Minister, once a month I sit down and interrogate progress on all Article 31 applications. This work is bearing fruit and decisions can or will be soon made on the majority of these applications.
“I would also urge applicants to provide the Department with any additional information that has been requested as quickly as possible to allow applications to be progressed. What I and DOE are about is creating a better place to live, work and invest. I am determined that applications should not become stuck in the system as has previously happened and I or officials will determine applications based on current information if applicants cannot respond to these requests.
“The first six months of 2012 can be a sea change in planning - decisions being made, certainty for all, positive development of our built and natural heritage and planning a key tool in economic progress and jobs in times of need.”
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