Planning Portal

Information Leaflet 7: Hierarchy of Planning Documents

The Department of the Environment is responsible for planning control in Northern Ireland. The Planning Service, an Agency within the Department, administers its planning functions.
The planning system guides the future development and use of land in our cities, towns and rural areas in the public interest. The central concerns of the system are to determine what kind of development is appropriate, how much is desirable, where it should be located and what it looks like.
This leaflet is one of a series of information leaflets that look at different aspects of the planning system. Its purpose is to provide information on the various planning documents that are used in the decision-making process and to explain how the Department takes these and other matters into account in making its decisions on planning applications. It attempts to simplify a complex area and to do so as straightforwardly as possible. However, it is intended simply as a guide and its contents should not be relied upon as an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The information provided reflects the Department’s understanding of the legal and policy position at time of printing. The leaflet may therefore need updating in the future to reflect legislative change or new or revised statements of policy.
Finally, it should be noted that the responsibility for making a decision on a planning application does not always rest with the Department. Where an appeal is lodged, the final decision will be made by the Planning Appeals Commission, an independent body established by statute. The decisions of both the Department and the Commission are open to challenge on a point of law by application to the High Court for judicial review.
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