Minister Outlines Plans
Published on Thu, 4 Dec 2008
Minister Outlines Plans to Speed Up Planning Process
A streamlined scheme speeding up the planning process could be rolled out across all council areas by next Spring, Environment Minister Sammy Wilson revealed today.
As he briefed the Assembly Environment Committee on planning reforms, the Minister noted the streamlined scheme the Planning Service was operating in conjunction with Derry, Limavady, Ballymoney and Banbridge and Armagh councils had already dramatically slashed the time it took to process non-controversial planning applications.
With 15 more council areas aiming to come on board by the New Year, Mr Wilson explained: “The Streamlined Consultation Scheme agreed with local councils is a very positive key short-term planning reform initiative which was successfully introduced as a pilot scheme in partnership with Derry City Council”.
“Overall the scheme has had a very positive impact on the timescale for processing non-contentious applications with about 20% of decisions issued within 16-20 working days and 70% issued within 28 days.
“This compares very favourably with the previous average processing time of 89 working days.
“We have had very positive feedback from agents consulted on the pilot scheme, with an overall 85% satisfaction rating.”
In the areas operating the scheme, councils have agreed to allow approvals for non-contentious planning applications to be issued without including them on the schedule for discussion at the monthly meeting of their council planning committees.
Councils are consulted on a weekly basis immediately after the application is received and have been given an agreed three week period to respond to the Planning Service.
Among the non-contentious planning applications that have been approved under the streamlined scheme were extensions and alterations to dwellings, temporary classrooms, shop fronts, farm building, advertisements.
An approval can only be issued if no objections have been received from third parties and there has been no formal request from the council to discuss the application at its planning committee.
Mr Wilson said: “These new forward thinking consultation arrangements are very encouraging and will help deliver a more efficient and effective planning system in line with the Northern Ireland Executive’s overall aim.
“It is particularly beneficial to householder applicants and the economy through small/medium sized business enterprises.
“I look forward to the continuing support from all stakeholders in the Planning System in taking forward these innovative proposals”.
The Minister said he was encouraged by the discussions with remaining councils who have yet to operate the scheme.
He added: “I very much hope all councils will be operating the scheme with the Planning Service by 31 March 2009 for the benefit of the whole community and the economy
Note to Editors
1. The Streamlined Consultation Scheme was first introduced as a 6-month pilot project in partnership with Derry City Council (Dec07-June08).
2. A post implementation review confirmed that the new process considerably improved the overall timescale for processing non-contentious applications.
3. The scheme has also helped improve performance in relation to business targets for other categories of applications (major and intermediate).
4. Limavady was the second council to agree to operate the Scheme followed by Ballymoney and Banbridge. Armagh started the scheme on 1 December.
5. It is envisaged that a further 15 Councils will join the Scheme by the New Year with all Councils operational by 31 March 2009.
6. Applications with implications under the environmental regulations are not included in the Streamlined Scheme.
7. For further information, contact Press Office, Tel: 028 9054 0003 and out-of-hours contact the EIS Duty Press Officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.