Planning Portal

Proposed New Planning Laws

Published on Fri, 28 Oct 2005
Environment Minister, Jeff Rooker, today announced the start of consultation on legislation to reform the planning system.
Wide-ranging changes contained in draft planning legislation would speed up the development control and appeal processes, strengthen control in protecting and enhancing the built and natural environment and improve enforcement and assist the preparation of development plans. The consultation is another step in the DOE's "Planning to Deliver" programme to modernise and reform the planning system and follows the August 2004 Reforming Planning consultation exercise.
Jeff Rooker said: "I want to build a better planning system for Northern Ireland which delivers good timely decisions. The proposals are aimed at achieving this by tackling delays in the planning process, strengthening enforcement powers, and enhancing community involvement in development proposals, as well as promoting the achievement of sustainable development.
"The legislative changes are part of the commitments made in the Modernising Planning Processes Implementation Plan launched in February 2003 and have the potential to deliver the most significant reforms to the planning system over the last 30 years. I am confident this will lead to a much improved planning system which will benefit all those involved in the planning process. I encourage everyone to contribute to the consultation exercise."

Notes to Editors

  1. The consultation exercise will run from 28 October to 23 December 2005.
  2. The aim is to have legislation in place by Spring 2006, although it will not all be commenced at that time.
  3. The Modernising Planning Processes (MPP) Implementation Plan was launched by Angela Smith on 3 February 2003 after a comprehensive review of the planning system. There was further consultation on the broad legislative proposals in the August 2004 Reforming Planning: Proposals to Amend Primary Planning Legislation in Northern Ireland.
  4. The Reforming Planning consultation paper sought views on a series of legislative proposals affecting the development control process, enforcement against breaches of planning control and the preparation of development plans.
  5. 114 responses were received to the Reforming Planning consultation from a wide range of interest groups which were taken into consideration before finalising the draft legislative provisions.
  6. Many of the legislative provisions reflect recent changes to legislation in England and Wales as made by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.
  7. Key legislative provisions include:-
    • Making disabled access a primary consideration at the start of the development process
    • Underlining the importance of design quality
    • The review of old mineral permissions to ensure they operate under modern environmental standards
    • Regulating the expansion of large retail outlets with new controls on the addition of internal floorspace including mezzanine floors
    • New powers to protect buildings within candidate conservation areas from demolition while the Department consults on the proposed designation
    • Faster action to respond to breaches in planning control
    • More than doubling of fines for unauthorised advertisements
    • Changes to the processing of planning appeals by introducing delegation to individual commissioners in certain cases
    • More flexible procedures for considering objections to development plans
    • Further community involvement in issues relating to development in their areas
    • Removing the ability to renew a planning permission by varying the time within which development must be started or to submit repeat or "twin tracked" planning applications
    • Wider powers to charge planning fees to allow the recovery of the costs of key consultees in processing planning applications
    • Further promotion of sustainable development
    • Ending the Crown's immunity from planning control. Currently Crown bodies, including government departments operate under a parallel version of the planning system. Under the proposed changes Crown bodies will have to apply for planning permission like any other developer but with safeguards to ensure national security is not compromised
  8. An Explanatory Memorandum gives more detail on the proposed measures and is available along with the draft Order on the Planning Service website at or on or alternatively they can be obtained from Planning Service HQ at:- Planning Service Headquarters, Consultation on draft Planning Reform (NI) Order, Policy and Legislation, 3rd Floor, Millennium House, Great Victoria Street, Belfast, BT2 7BN.
  9. For further media information contact DOE Press Office, Tel; 028 9054 0003.
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