Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council bringing in planning changes amid top level review

By John Mulgrew

Sweeping new changes to Belfast's planning system are to be brought in following complaints to council bosses.

In December, the Belfast Telegraph revealed Scotland's former chief planner, Jim Mackinnon, was being parachuted in to investigate and carry out a high level review of the system here.

Now, it's bringing in a new 'charter', which it hopes will improve the planning process here, and alleviate some developer concerns.

Planning committee chairman and SDLP councillor, Donal Lyons, said: “New recommendations will be introduced as well as a customer charter with 10 operating principles to reduce back-logs in the planning application system, speed up transactions and ensure the service is faster, better and more engaging. It will also help support the delivery of council’s 20-year strategy, the Belfast Agenda.”

Some of the new areas include ensuring “customers have the right information in support of an application before submitting it”, requirements are “fully understood and needs are met”, and a pre-application discussion (PAD), which is currently paid for by developers, is “provided to identify issues at the beginning of the process and before the application is made”.

Mr Lyons said:“As Belfast continues to experience an unprecedented level of growth; the new measures have been designed to improve both the quality and speed of the application process in a way which balances the benefits to householders, private industry and wider community.

The council says the changes “will be supported by a series of internal measures to implement a more focused service improvement plan that will see the introduction of staff training and development programmes, a closer integration of the work of planning and building control, improved operation of the development management process including the appointment of a dedicated road engineer and increasing the number of officers authorised to sign reports, among other initiatives”.

“The work will be taken forward by the planning committee and a new senior management team, including a director of planning and building control which is currently going through the appointment process as part of a wider organisational change plan.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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