Belfast Telegraph

New laws target rogue developers

Rogue developers in Northern Ireland face fines of up to £100,000 under new planning legislation.

Fixed penalty enforcement notices could also be used as an alternative to costly and lengthy court prosecutions if builders fail to meet regulations, Environment Minister Alex Attwood said.

It is part of a range of measures to make planning processes more accountable and speedy and protect against unsightly or illegitimate construction.

Mr Attwood said: "It will make enforcement simpler and tougher - and allow for faster and fairer planning appeals. It will also allow communities to have a stronger role in influencing the development of their areas."

A key part of the Planning Bill introduced in the Assembly on Monday will be an increase in potential fines from £30,000 to £100,000 for developers who do not obey the law.

The Bill is intended to speed up reforms and modernise the planning system before the majority of planning powers transfer to local government in 2015.

Mr Attwood added: "These reforms were not meant to be in place until 2015. I am not prepared to wait. I am introducing these reforms two years early to make planning better fit for purpose today and better fit for purpose when many planning functions transfer to councils in 2015.

"It means we will reap the benefits of the reforms sooner. It means we will transfer a system which councils, planners, developers and the public are already using and which they know and understand."

Key provisions in the Bill include the option to appoint people other than the Planning Appeals Commission to conduct inquiries on major planning applications, and changes to the planning appeals system to make this faster and fairer, such as reducing the time limit for submitting appeals and restricting the introduction of new material at appeal.

The Bill will also create a new duty for statutory consultees to respond to consultations within a prescribed time frame and enhance community involvement as developers will be required to consult the community before submitting major planning applications.

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