Belfast Telegraph

Planning system review launched

Ways of improving the planning system in Northern Ireland to aid economic recovery are to be reviewed, the Environment Minister said.

Environmental experts will be among independent members of two teams which aim to reshape current practice. They are expected to report to minister Alex Attwood by the end of next month.

Mr Attwood said: "The interventions I am proposing aim to do exactly what we need them to do: deliver a planning system that will favour economic growth.

"The two groups that I have set up today will help me realise those plans by looking at real ways in which we can change the planning system for the better. They will work to tight 33-day timeframes to begin with.

"I am also intensifying efforts to simplify and streamline the planning system in order to make it more effective and efficient, providing applicants and the development industry with greater certainty and speed of decision making."

Prime Minister David Cameron has defended plans to simplify the planning system in England, saying the Government is aiming to balance environmental and social benefits with economic ones.

In a letter to the National Trust, which has criticised the draft National Planning Policy Framework, he vowed to protect the "magnificent countryside". Campaigners fear a new "presumption in favour of sustainable development" would extend urban sprawl in England.

Mr Attwood added: "With the full effect of the economic downturn now being felt, it is more crucial than ever to make this a priority.

"All of government activity, including planning and regulation, should support economic development to ensure that Northern Ireland is a better place to live, work and invest in.

"That is how I will judge myself - that is how all should be judged."

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