Planning Portal

Should There Be Greater Freedom To Change The Use Of Buildings Without Planning Permission, Asks Angela Smith?

Published on Thu, 11 Sep 2003
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Angela Smith, MP, today launched a consultation paper on the review of planning regulations that allow certain uses of buildings or land to be changed without planning permission.
This is a further move to cut through red tape in her crusade to modernise planning processes.
Angela Smith said: "This review is a further step, delivering on my commitment to Modernising Planning Processes (MPP). This consultation paper seeks views on what changes could be made to the current provisions to allow changes in the use of buildings and other land that would facilitate and encourage business and investment across Northern Ireland.
"Obviously I seek this against a background of caring for the local environment. What I am asking, therefore, is if more could be done without any adverse impact upon residential amenity and other interests. This consultation paper not only seeks views on the conclusions and recommendations that have emerged from initial research in this area, but invites additional suggestions and comment."
The Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern Ireland) 1989 identifies which changes of land use require or do not require planning permission. However, apart from some changes to the Order in 1993, the arrangements in relation to changes of use of buildings and other land have not been comprehensively reviewed since 1989.
The consultation paper is available on the Planning Service website at or can be obtained by calling 028 90540380.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Angela Smith MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, launched the Modernising Planning Processes Implementation Plan on 3rd February 2003. This followed the Modernising Planning Processes Consultation Paper, published on 13th February 2002, which was the first comprehensive review of the planning system in nearly 30 years.
  2. One of the topics in the Modernising Planning Processes (MPP) consultation paper was the possibility of reducing regulation. Specifically, could the regulations determining whether changes in the use of buildings or other land required planning permission be amended and thereby reduce planning application numbers? The Planning Service proposed to critically examine the regulations.
  3. Responses to the MPP consultation were generally supportive of this proposal although some respondents felt there was a need to restrict certain changes of use where problems had arisen. In the Modernising Planning Processes Implementation Plan published in February 2003 the Department indicated that it had appointed consultants to review the Planning (Use Classes) Order (NI) 1989 (the UCO) and would issue a consultation paper.
  4. The brief given to the consultants was wide and opened the door, potentially, to a wide range of changes and reforms to the UCO. In practice, few changes have been recommended. The research shows that changes of use applications are relatively small in number compared to applications for operational development and there is no significant weight of evidence to support fundamental changes to the UCO.
  5. The consultation paper seeks views on the conclusions reached by the consultants and on such changes as they have recommended. It also invites wider comment on whether there should be changes beyond those recommended by the consultant, additional use classes, merging of use classes, additional uses included in existing use classes and so on.
  6. The consultation paper includes an executive summary of the Consultants’ Report and it makes reference to this in footnotes. It also advises that the consultants’ report is available on-line to those who may wish to read it in full.
  7. For further information please contact Philip Maguire DOE Press Office Tel 02890 540013 e-mail
Get Adobe Reader software (link opens in a new browser window)