Planning Portal

Durkan announces half a million pounds to place planning in the heart of the community

Published on Mon, 28 Oct 2013 by ecomms@doeni.gov.uk.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today announced almost half a million pounds over a three year period to help community groups with planning issues.
A funding package of £465,500 will be granted to Community Places, a voluntary organisation that provides impartial advice and guidance on planning issues to disadvantaged and marginalised community groups and individuals. This helps these groups play an active role influencing and shaping their communities.

This is a 9.5% increase on previous years funding and will be allocated on a three yearly basis up until 2016. This is to provide support for communities in the lead up to and after planning transfers to local government in 2015.

The type of support Community Places provides includes training for community, voluntary and environmental groups on the planning system; how to make representations on planning and in more complex cases how to present complaints and submissions at appeal hearings.

Community Places is currently working with residents on a number of major applications including Casement Park and the new University of Ulster campus.

Mark H Durkan said: “Planning can be complex and has the potential to impact on all of our lives. What this fund is about is giving everyone a fair chance, assisting those in disadvantaged and marginalised communities to have their say in applications in their area.

“Local government reform is about bringing planning power closer to people by transferring the majority of planning functions to councils. Local people making decisions. Local people influencing decisions. This is why I am increasing the funding for Community Places and making it available over this key period of change so that all groups understand and feel capable of playing an active part in the current and new planning system.”

John Crossey, Chairperson of Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents’ Association said: “Community Places is advising our group and over 700 residents in responding to the Casement Park plans for a new sports, concert and major events stadium. Their support is invaluable in helping us understand the whole planning system and present our views professionally and effectively. We have found Community Places to be helpful and friendly at all times and always willing to go the extra mile.”

Cathy Rice from Ards Community Network said: With the support of Community Places local community groups in our area have been able to develop new community hubs, environmental improvements and traffic calming and get involved in all the changes in the planning system, new council structures and community planning. They excel at linking local communities into the big picture and helping them make sense of and participate in planning processes.”

Stevie Johnston, Chairperson of Community Places said: “We are delighted that the Minister has decided to support our work over the next three years so that we can continue to help people exercise their right to be involved in planning issues which impact on their lives and communities.

“Currently we are advising residents on responding to major new proposals such as the University of Ulster and Casement Park, objecting to rural industrial sheds built without planning permission and lobbying for housing for homeless people. Our advice clinics reach all parts of the region ensuring that people who can’t afford to hire consultants still have access to professional planning advice. The Minister’s decision also means that we will help communities to keep in touch with all the major changes in the pipeline for planning and the role of the new super councils.”

The Environment Minister Mark H Durkan concluded: “My aim is to make a better environment, a stronger economy. Giving all groups a voice and creating a level playing field for everyone to have their say will help do this.”

Notes to editors:

1. The funding will be allocated over three years - £136,500 for 2013/14; £145,000 for 2014/15 and £175,000 for 2015/16.

2. Funding has been provided since 1995 but this is increased funding over a three year period to cover the period leading up to, during and after local government reform.

3. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of the Environment Press Office on 028 9025 6058. Out of office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.
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