We have long called for planning reform in Northern Ireland to ensure sustainable development is at the heart of the planning system.
Planning reform in Northern Ireland
The need for planning reform culminated in a consultation in 2008 where we, along with many others, called for an improved and streamlined procedure including a plan-led system and much greater public participation.
We supported many of the consultation proposals which we believe will help to improve certainty, reduce delays and benefit sustainable development, but we still have some key concerns:
- We seek a statutory purpose for planning to achieve sustainable development.
- We would like a climate change policy in PPS1 for Northern Ireland, the review of which is urgently needed.
- We think it is necessary that local development plans remain in general conformity with the Regional Development Strategy (RDS), otherwise the RDS is made redundant.
- The links between community planning and development plans must be made clearer.
- We believe it is essential that environmental assessment tools are built into the planning system, ie appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive, Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). We especially urge the use of SEA over Sustainability Appraisals.
- With regard to inquiries and appeals, we urge further investment in the Planning Appeals Commission rather than external examiners appointed by the Department and we believe the public should retain a right to an oral hearing.
- We are lobbying for a limited third party right of appeal, which we believe is essential to ensure fairness, transparency and public trust in the planning system.
- We seek the withdrawal of the proposal for local member review bodies, which we believe threatens the impartiality and independence of the review process, and compromises the integrity of professional planners.
- We urge the Department to progress developer contributions, which should include green infrastructure, beyond any mitigation already required.
- We encourage a requirement for all new councils to employ a council ecologist, to ensure the council is compliant with relevant nature conservation legislation and meets its competent authority status.