Belfast Telegraph

Funding shortfall forces redeployment of 60 planning staff

By Michael McHugh

Sixty planners are to move to Land and Property Services in Northern Ireland, it was revealed today.

The technical officers will work on a project for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development from September. It is part of a two-year effort to improve the system for administering payments such as the single farm subsidy.

The Department of Environment earlier said the decision to move staff was due to an £8m gap in funding for the Planning Service because of a fall in applications during the economic downturn.

The number of planning applications has fallen by 45% from 2004-05 when 36,593 were made.

Environment Minister Edwin Poots said: "This is a particularly difficult time for the Planning Service but we are making every effort to ensure that staff awaiting redeployment are helped as quickly as possible.

"The news of these jobs in the Land and Property Services is welcome and a sign of our commitment to redeploy the affected staff in the Planning Service.

"The department is putting all its efforts into securing successful schemes to transfer or loan staff to other areas in order to keep these key skills within the wider Northern Ireland Civil Service."

Unions protested earlier this year after it emerged posts were to be shifted.