Belfast Telegraph

MLA and minister to tackle planning row

By Brian Lovett and Pauline Reynolds

North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness is to meet with senior planning officials to try and resolve a planning row over roof extensions.

Mr Maginness claims local residents stand to lose tens of thousands of pounds because they did not follow proper planning permission procedure.

He raised the matter during an adjournment debate at the Assembly last week, in response to concerns raised by at least 100 constituents.

“Most did not apply (for planning permission) because they were ignorant of the law pertaining to such extensions and were not aware of the need to apply,” he told the Assembly.

“The builders who carried out the work were either ignorant of the position or did not disclose the necessity for planning permission.

“Nonetheless, it is accepted that, in the main, those who got the extensions did so unaware of the need to submit a planning application.

“However, it is accepted that that was wrong and illegal.”

“Over the past year or so... quite a number of people — the figures vary from 25 to 50, but some say more — have been told to remove the roof extensions.”

Mr Maginness said that on average roof extensions cost around £15,000 to build and to take them down would cost a further £10,000.

“If the planners proceed with enforcement, those individuals face that further expense,” he said.

“They will also lose the initial £15,000 that was spent on creating the extension, so their overall loss is at least £25,000 and they are left with a house that is clearly inadequate for their needs.”

Mr Maginness asked Mr Poots if his ministers and officials in the Planning Service would consider a design model which would be “useful in adapting existing unauthorised roof extensions”.

In response, Mr Poots said: “I would be happy if the member and other colleagues met senior planning officials in the Belfast division to see whether there are means of dealing with that issue.

“It is not my desire or that of Planning Service to deal harshly with people.

“We want an outcome that is to the wider community’s benefit.

“Although certain planning problems will be insurmountable, let us see whether we can find a way through on that matter so that people’s homes, which are extremely important to them, are not removed from them as a consequence of decisions that we have taken.

“Let us also send a clear signal to others who may be considering a roof-space extension that they must be sure to follow due process and carry out any work in a way that conforms to planning requirements.

“I trust that this debate will help to highlight the issue so that others do not find themselves in the terrible situation in which many currently find themselves.

“And I trust that the meeting with Mr Maginness suggested will take place in due course.”

Mr Maginness welcomed the Minister’s comments.

“I look forward to meeting and working with the Planning Service to try and find a model which would be acceptable,” he said.

“Prior to this debate I had asked the Minister to show some compassion to the residents who have been put in this very difficult position and I believe that the Minister is doing what he can to offer assistance.

“It would be my hope that this situation will not happen again in the future and that other people will be made more aware of the need for planning permission when they wish to build extensions to their homes.”

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