Planning Portal

Information Leaflet 3: Comment on a Planning Application
How Do We Make The Decision?

There are a number of stages in processing a planning application before it reaches a final decision. They are as follows:

Key Stage 1

Validation, neighbour notification, advertisement and consultation with statutory agencies and, if necessary, other organisations. During this time there is very little material on the application file. The full details of the application including any plans, maps, drawings, environmental information etc which accompany the application will be made available to view on the PublicAccess website via the Planning NI Web Portal ( Copies of all consultation replies and any representation or objections received will also be made available on the website upon their receipt.

Key Stage 2

Discussion at an internal Development Management Group meeting, at which a preliminary opinion will be formed to present the application to the next meeting of the local Council's Planning Committee.
However, those applications considered of a straight forward non-contentious nature will be circulated to the Council on a weekly list of applications received under the Streamlined Application process.  These applications can be determined without the need to formally place them on the monthly schedule to the Council provided the application is to be approved, there is no formal request from a Councillor to bring the application before the Council, the application has attracted no objections and the proposal meets all relevant planning policies and material considerations.  Therefore Key Stages 3 and 4 do not apply to Streamlined Applications.
It is also possible that an opinion may not necessarily be formed on the application at the first available Development Management Group meeting as there may be information outstanding which is required to allow the group to form a preliminary opinion.  In that instance, the application will be discussed at subsequent meetings of the Group.

Key Stage 3

Presentation of the application to the local Council on a publicly available schedule or list of applications, including the Department’s preliminary opinion. The schedule which will be produced 2 weeks in advance of the Council meeting, will be made available for viewing on the Planning NI Web Portal ( Streamlined Applications will not be included in the schedule.

Key Stage 4

Local Council meeting to consider the application and consider the Department's preliminary opinion.

Key Stage 5

Post Council Stage.  If the Council agrees with the Department's opinion, a decision should normally issue within 2 weeks. If the Council disagrees, it can take longer, depending on whether or not the decision is deferred at the Council’s request.  This may mean further consultation and a repeat of Key Stages 2 - 4.
If we refuse planning permission, or if the applicant is unhappy with a condition attached to an approval, he or she may appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC), which is independent from the Department. If we have not made a decision on the application within 2 months the applicant may appeal directly to the PAC. The decision of the PAC on appeals is final.
If you object to a planning proposal, there is no procedure within the current planning process to initiate a planning appeal against a decision to grant planning permission. However, if you are not satisfied with the procedures we have used to reach our decision, or with the standard of service you have received, you can:
  • make a complaint (see our leaflet Making a Complaint);
  • refer the matter to the Assembly Ombudsman where you believe there has been maladministration;
  • seek leave for a judicial review of the planning decision.
If you have made a representation on a proposal we will notify you about the decision and explain the reasons for taking that decision.
In the case of the major developments, which are dealt with using the special procedures in Article 31 of the Planning (NI) Order 1991, the nature of the proposal or of issues raised by representations may mean that we have to ask the PAC to hold a Public Local Inquiry. This means the PAC can consider all relevant issues, including all representations and objections submitted, and give us a report, which we carefully consider. The final decision is however for the Department. In most cases we will follow the recommendations in the PAC’s report of the Inquiry, but there may be cases where we disagree with the recommendation. We will, however, give reasons for whatever decision we reach.
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