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Belfast planning applications soar by 25% in a single year

By John Mulgrew

The number of planning applications in Belfast has risen by a quarter in the space of a year.

The city council's planning service received 507 new applications between June and August this year. That was up from 406 during the same period in 2015.

The council issued 548 decisions, compared with 333 in the same quarter last year. Fewer than 10% of all applications are required to go through the planning committee.

Some of its biggest decisions included several major student developments and hotels, such as Grand Central.

When Belfast City Council took over responsibility for planning from the former Department of the Environment, it took responsibility for 780 legacy applications.

Around 70 of those are still awaiting decisions.

Councillor Peter Johnston, who chairs the committee, said: "The figures speak for themselves. While the number of applications received by the council increased by 25% in the past three months, the number of decisions issued went up by 65% in the same period. This turnaround has not been without its difficulties.

"The issuing of legacy decisions, inherited from the former Department of the Environment, continues to impact on our ability to achieve statutory targets.

"Having said that, the average processing times for major applications by the council's planning service is shorter than when we took over from the department.

"That is a terrific achievement and a testimony to the dedication of the service's staff."

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