Planning Portal

Planning applications continue to fall

Published on Thu, 21 Mar 2013 by
The number of planning applications being submitted in Northern Ireland is still falling.
The figures, published today in the latest Quarterly Development Management Bulletin, reveal that for the third quarter of 2012/13 applications were down by 11% on the same time last year (from 3,263 to 2,892).

Planning applications for residential development have experienced an even more significant 16% drop between the equivalent quarters down from 1,779 to 1,499. These reductions are a reflection of the current economic climate.

The approval rate for decisions has remained around 93% when compared to the equivalent quarter last year.

DOE Planning has seen improvements in performance, for the third successive quarter, compared with the same period last year. Processing times were all lower for Major, Intermediate, and Minor applications for the third quarter in 2012/13 than for the corresponding quarter last year. Comparison of actual performance with the new 2012/13 targets will be made at the end of the current financial year.

The key points to note in the bulletin are:

1. Applications received

• In the third quarter of 2012/13, DOE Planning received 2,892 planning applications. This is a decrease of 11% compared with the equivalent quarter in 2011/12. Applications for full planning permission make up 78% of applications received so it is not surprising that it is this type of application which has seen the sharpest fall. They have dropped from 2,585 full applications in the third quarter of 2011/12 to 2,248 in quarter three of 2012/13 (down by 13%). Applications for residential development have continued to fall, down by 16% from 1,779 in quarter 3 2011/12 to 1,499 in quarter 3 2012/13.

2. Applications decided

• DOE Planning issued decisions on 3,273 applications in the third quarter of 2012/13, down by 2% for the same quarter last year (3,349).
• The number of decisions issued for full planning permission was 2,522. This makes up the bulk of the type of planning application against which a decision was issue (77% of all decisions issued).

3. Applications approved

• Overall, 93% of decisions issued for planning applications in quarter 3 2012/13 were approved, the same as in quarter 3 last year.

4. Applications received for residential development

• The majority of applications received by the Department are still for residential development, accounting for over half (52%) of all applications received in quarter 3 of 2012/13.
• In urban areas, the number of residential applications fell from 712 to 614 (14%) and in rural areas the number fell from 1,067 to 885 (17%). Rural applications made up just under three fifths (59%) of residential applications.

5. Applications decided for residential development

• In urban areas, the number of decisions fell by 22%, from 859 to 672; compared with rural areas where the number of decisions fell by 11% (from 1,209 to 1,071).

6. Renewable energy applications

• Renewable energy applications include wind turbines, wind farms, solar panels, biomass burners, hydroelectric schemes etc. The vast majority of renewable energy applications received in quarter 3 2012/13 were for single wind turbines (152 out of 195 renewable energy applications received or 78%).

• The number of decisions issued against renewable energy applications more than doubled from 116 to 250 in the third quarter of 2011/12. Nine tenths (90%) of renewable energy applications were approved.

7. Enforcement Statistics

• In quarter three 2012/13, there were 709 enforcement cases opened and 920 enforcement cases closed, representing activity increases of 28% and 45% respectively on same quarter last year.

• The main reason for an enforcement case being closed was because no breach had actually occurred (323, or 35% of closed cases).

8. Results for Key Performance Targets

• DOE Planning have a key commitment under the Programme for Government to ensure that 90% of large scale investment (LSI) planning decisions are made within 6 months and applications with job creation potential are given additional weight. However, this target is to be phased in over a three year period with 60% representing the interim target for 2012/13. Between April 2012 and the end of quarter 3 2012, there were 11 LSI applications where a decision was either reached or it was possible for a decision to have been reached within the six month processing target. Of these, 7, or 64%, were processed within six months.

• There are three separate annual targets depending on application type. These have been revised for this year. The annual processing target for Major planning applications (predominantly housing developments, commercial and retail development) is to process to decision or withdrawal in an average of 23 weeks. In quarter 3 2012/13, the average processing time for major applications was 27 weeks, lower than the 34 weeks achieved for same period last year.

• The annual processing target for Intermediate planning applications (predominantly single houses) is to process to decision or withdrawal in an average of 20 weeks. In quarter 3 2012/13, the average processing time for intermediate applications was 18 weeks compared with 22 weeks in quarter 3 in 2011/12.

• The annual processing target for Minor planning applications (predominantly alterations and extensions to houses) is to process to decision or withdrawal in an average of 14 weeks. In quarter 3 2012/13, the average processing time for minor applications was 12 weeks compared with 16 weeks in quarter 3 in 2011/12.

Results for operational targets

• There are two annual targets for the validation of a planning application. The first is to validate 85% of applications within six days and the second is to validate 95% of applications within 10 days. In quarter 3 2012/13, 95% of planning applications were validated within 6 days and 99% were validated within 10 days.

• There are a further two annual targets for the time taken to issue a decision after last Council consultation. The first is to issue 85% of decisions within two weeks and the second is to issue 95% of decisions within four weeks. In quarter 3 2012/13, 88% of decisions were issued within two weeks of last Council consultation and 94% were issued within 4 weeks of last Council consultation.

• There are two key annual targets for enforcement activity. The first is for 95% of high priority cases to be discussed and certified within two working weeks. In quarter 3 2012/13, 42% of high priority cases were discussed and certified within two weeks. The second is to process to a conclusion 70% of enforcement cases within 39 weeks. In quarter 3 2012/13 71% of enforcement cases were brought to a conclusion within this time period.

Notes to editors:

1. This is the latest in a series of Quarterly Development Management Statistics Bulletin.

2. There are ten performance targets covered in the report, covering Planning performance in relation to the processing of planning applications and enforcement activity. A number of new targets were introduced for the 2012/13 year. Note that the definition of large scale investment applications has been reviewed and has now been extended to include not only headquarters applications but all such applications also received in local offices and identified as such by planning staff.

3. A new table (Table 8) was added to the publication in quarter 2. This provides detail of enforcement activity for the quarter and is in response to an identified user need.

4. Following a review of the type of application which should be reported on for the purposes of this report, Certificates of Lawful Use or Development (CLUDs), either proposed or existing, are no longer included. This is because applications for such certificates are not actual planning applications. They have also been removed from last year’s quarter 3 figures to preserve comparability.

5. Planning is organised into five area offices and a Headquarters, details of which are available in appendix 4 of the bulletin.

6. The records of all applications from 1 October 2012 to 31 December 2012 were transferred in March 2012 from a live database and inspected for consistency in coding before figures were finalised for publication.

7. The ‘Planning Service Development Management Statistical Bulletin’

Hard copies are available free of charge from:

Department of the Environment, Analytical Services Branch, Department of the Environment, Room 4-03, Clarence Court, Belfast, BT2 8GB

Telephone: (028) 9054 0907 E-mail: Website:

Further breakdowns of the figures presented in the bulletin are also available on request.

8. All media enquiries should be directed to the DOE Press Office on 028 9025 6058 or for out of office hours, contact the duty press officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.
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