Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland
The Context: The Planning System
The complex social, economic and environmental trends described earlier provide the context within which planning in Northern Ireland operates. It is necessary to distinguish those matters which planning can influence from those which are outside its control. Planning policies cannot by themselves guarantee prosperity, reverse population movements or ensure that the environment is unharmed. They can, however, influence the nature of future development in a creative and beneficial way.
Planning is designed to regulate the development and use of land in the interest of the whole community. Its central concerns are to determine what kinds of development are appropriate, how much is desirable, where it should best be located and what it looks like.
The Department's planning responsibilities include the preparation of Development Plans, consisting of maps and written statements setting out proposals for the development and use of land in the area to which the Plan relates. The Department also publishes Development Control Advice Notes setting out general principles and criteria relating to specific categories of development.
Most development requires planning permission. When dealing with planning applications, the Department takes into account Government policy, the provisions of the development plan, published policy and practice and any other relevant planning considerations. Some applications require to be accompanied by additional information to ensure that their possible effects on the environment are properly taken into account.
The Department has at its disposal a range of powers to improve the built environment. It may list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and designate Conservation Areas. It may prepare development schemes for areas in need of improvement and acquire land in order to give effect to such schemes. It may acquire derelict land for the purpose of bringing it back into use. It may also make orders for the pedestrianisation of streets and carry out works to provide amenities for pedestrians on such streets.
The Department has the power to give grants for the preservation or enhancement of buildings within Conservation Areas. It may also make grants to District Councils for environmental improvements and the acquisition of land for open spaces.