Department's Determination of Applications
The Strategic Planning Division within the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) is responsible for the processing of regionally significant planning applications submitted under Section 26 of the Planning (NI) Act 2011 (the Act). All regionally significant planning applications will be subject to pre-application community consultation (PACC) under Section 27 of the Act. PACC is the responsibility of the planning applicant in advance of the submission of a planning application. Any representations made to the applicant during the PACC period are not representations on the planning application itself.
The Minister for Infrastructure is the final decision maker on all regionally significant planning applications. Regionally significant planning applications are subject to normal planning procedures and processing up until the point of the decision. Following the completion of a planning report and recommendation to the Minister, three process options are open to the Department in determining the application. A Public Local Inquiry can be called before the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC), or other person so appointed. Further information on the circumstances of when a Public Local Inquiry may be called is available in the Department’s Statement of Community Involvement. When a Public Local Inquiry is not held, a Notice of Opinion to either grant or refuse planning permission will issue. This will issue to both the applicant and the relevant council(s) and they will have not less than 28 days to request a hearing before the PAC, or other person so appointed, into the Department’s decision. If no hearing is requested, the final decision will issue. In the event of a hearing or a Public Local Inquiry, the PAC or other person so appointed, will prepare a report and recommendation for consideration by the Department. The planning decision will then be taken by the Department/ Minister following due consideration of the independent report and recommendation. The decision of the Department will be final.
The Department has also the power to call in planning applications from councils under Section 29 of the Act. Such applications will follow the same process route as regionally significant applications. Depending on what stage of the process an application has been called in, it may not be necessary for the Department to undertake further consultation with the public or other relevant bodies.