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Developers waiting 70 weeks for planning permission in Northern Ireland

By Claire O'Boyle

Major planning applications are taking almost twice as long to go through when compared to last year - with developers waiting an astonishing 70 weeks for approval.

This is up from an average of 42 weeks at the same time last year, and more than twice the target of 30 weeks. The latest figures from the Department for Infrastructure show there were 44 major applications across Northern Ireland between October and December, as well as 3,164 local and one regionally significant application.

The total of 3,209 applications was a 5% increase on the same period the year before.

Belfast City, which received 412 applications, and Newry, Mourne and Down, which received 271, had the most.

The planning approval rate fell slightly to 93%, with the number of applications signed off across council areas ranging from a high of 99% in Ards and North Down, to a low of 80% in Newry, Mourne and Down.

David Burrows, who is chief executive at Belfast property developers Benmore Group said such significant delays are a huge turn-off for investors coming to Northern Ireland.

He said: "I'm not surprised the delays are as severe as this.

"Working in the industry, it's extremely frustrating to come up against delay after delay.

"It has a big impact and lots of plans will just never come off if they just keep getting put off, and so funding will fall away.

"It's very problematic because it affects job creation.

"An inefficient system is damaging not only for the development sector, but for the Northern Ireland economy as a whole. If developers and investors have confidence in the system they'll invest. It's when long delays happen that things get difficult."

There were just 21 renewable energy applications - by far the lowest figure for the quarter since 2003/04.

For the first time, single wind turbines did not form the majority of these applications, as there were just five.

At the end of the year, almost 200 renewable energy applications were still live and almost three quarters of these had been in the system for more than a year.

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