Planning Portal


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 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 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.

New and Retained Planning Legislation from 01 April 2015

Planning Act (NI) 2011

The Planning Act (NI) 2011 received Royal Assent on 4 May 2011 and it provides for the transfer of the majority of planning functions from central government to district councils on 01 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. It does not form part of the Act and has not been endorsed by the NI Assembly. The Notes should be read in conjunction with the 2011 Act.
The new subordinate legislation made under the 2011 Act was subjected to two public consultations.  The consultation papers and the Department’s response 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).
The Department has also retained the following subordinate legislation:
The following pieces of subordinate legislation are not available online:
  • Planning (Development Plans) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1994
  • Planning (Development Plans) Regulations(Northern Ireland) 1991
  • Planning Blight Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1989
  • Planning (Claims for Compensation) Regulations (NI) 1975
Directions are legally binding and given by the Department under enabling provisions in both primary and subordinate legislation. They are a means of modifying the detailed application of the legislation.  For example, under section 23(f) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 demolition of any description of building specified in a direction given by the Department is not to be taken to involve the development of land.
The majority of Planning Legislation prior to the reform and transfer of the majority of planning functions to councils on 1st April 2015 can be viewed via the following links:
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