Belfast Telegraph

Planning policy 'hitting investment'

By Robin Morton

Northern Ireland is in danger of losing out on significant investment opportunities unless the planning system is given a shake-up, it has been claimed.

The issue was raised at a Planning Summit hosted by the Construction Employers' Federation (CEF) in Belfast yesterday.

The event heard complaints that delays in securing planning permission were holding back many major construction projects.

John Armstrong, the CEF managing director, said the province needed a planning system which would be "more responsive, flexible and accountable".

Mr Armstrong said: "Unless there is a fundamental change to the current system then we stand to lose significant investment opportunities and economic growth will suffer."

The Planning Summit was attended by representatives of the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Law Society, the Construction Industry Group, the Quarry Products Association and the Chartered Institute of Housing.

At the meeting it was agreed that a call should be made to Environment Minister Arlene Foster, who is responsible for planning, to instigate a review of the planning system.

In response to the call, a spokesman for the DoE said that the Planning Service had established a new division to focus specifically on planning applications which were of "social or economic significance".

In addition, he said, a new protocol for dealing with such applications has been introduced, and this was already paying dividends.

The spokesman cited as examples the speed with which decisions had been issued for applications such as Coca Cola, IKEA and Titanic Quarter Phase II.

"This highlights that when an applicant submits a high quality proposal, and works with the Planning Service, a positive result can be produced with dispatch," he added.

Belfast Telegraph