Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland councils off target in processing of major planning applications

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation
John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Major planning applications here took double the 30-week target to process during 2018/19, the Department for Infrastructure has said.

The average processing time for major projects during 2018/19 was 59 weeks, an increase of nine weeks on the previous year. The average time for processing local applications during the same period was 14.8 weeks, which fell within the 15-week target.

Individually, five of the 11 councils met the 15-week target for local applications in 2018/19.

Just three met the 30-week target in 2018/19.

Of the 12,541 planning applications lodged between April 2018 and March 2019, just 137 were classed as major.

The total number of applications received fell by 3% last year.

Some 12,156 projects were decided, a 1% decrease. The overall approval rate for 2018/19 was 93.2%.

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John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the majority of councils still have a lot of work to do when it comes to major applications.

"Recent years have seen a welcome growth in the number of new homes being built but, to properly unlock the potential of home-builders locally, it is vital that councils, along with statutory consultees, focus on further reducing the length of time it is taking for decisions to be reached," he said.

"It's certainly the case that, over the last year, our members have reported increasing challenges at getting their applications determined in a timely manner and this is something that we believe extra resources need to be put to, as well as greater focus on how statutory consultees can be more of an enabler in many planning processes."

Belfast was the busiest council for planning applications with 1,756 lodged in 2018/19; followed by Newry, Mourne and Down (1,480); Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (1,348), and Mid Ulster (1,337).

Belfast Telegraph