Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Jobs good, planning farce not so

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster

There is no doubt that the creation of more than 600 new jobs by poultry processing company Moy Park is great news for Northern Ireland. Not only will it provide badly needed employment and extra money for the local economy, but the international standing of the Brazilian-owned company – it is one of the main sponsors of the World Cup – means it will send a positive signal around the world.

Credit is due to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Invest NI for their contributions towards convincing the company that Northern Ireland was the best place in Europe to do this particular piece of business. The deep roots of the company in the local soil – it was formed in 1943 – also helped persuade executives to ignore some of the more negative images which emanate from the province, particularly at this time of the year.

This investment shows what can be achieved when politicians focus collectively on an economic venture and put in the necessary behind-the-scenes work to make it happen. But today we also report on a shaming indictment of the Executive and its failure to translate a potential boost to the local economy into reality. The Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan, which affects 40% of the country's population, has been allowed to languish in the corridors of power for far too long.

It provides the blueprint for residential, commercial, retail and environmental planning but the Executive has been accused of very limited engagement with this vital document. If Northern Ireland really wants to be seen as a vibrant, go-ahead economy looking to the future with vision and confidence, then it needs to put the planning guidelines in place so that decisions on future ventures can be taken speedily and in accordance with the regulations. Why are we being kept in the dark over the inaction on this document? Surely devolved government should mean greater accountability and transparency as well as concerted efforts by all to build a new, prosperous Northern Ireland.

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