Belfast Telegraph

Backlog after planning changes

Transferring planning powers to local authorities has created a backlog of applications, the Northern Ireland Assembly has heard.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan conceded problems had arisen since the 11 new super councils assumed the new responsibilities last month.

He said: "W hile the transition has been relatively smooth, I cannot stand here and tell you that it has been seamless."

DUP MLA David Hilditch, who raised the issue during Question Time, also claimed some site visits were up to four months overdue.

He said: "There now appears to be a back-up of planning applications during the cross-over period of the new councils."

The transition, rolled out as part of the review of public administration, saw the bulk of planning powers devolved from central to local government from April 1.

It involved the movement of 400 staff and 6,500 live applications.

Mr Durkan said some district councils still needed guidance.

"There have been minor issues in places with the transfer of staff and with the transfer of cases," he added.

"However I have outlined previously in the chamber the benefits of planning going to local councils, and I believe that given time and, hopefully it won't take much time, for the new systems to bed in.

"I don't want to be in a position where you are micro-managing councils and are constantly looking over their shoulder.

"However, I had also said on numerous occasions that there would be the need for a degree of hand-holding as the new councils find their feet and get to grips with what is a huge new responsibility for them."

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