Planning regulations will be relaxed in Northern Ireland in order to help ensure the flow of development post-lockdown, it’s been revealed.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced changes to the process for major planning applications, temporarily removing the requirement to hold a public event as part of the pre-application community consultation.
“The changes which come into effect on May 1, will apply for five months and will be accompanied by guidance for applicants suggesting alternatives to this important element of the consultation process”, the department says.
The Minister says the changes have been put in place as “the planning system will have a critical role in supporting our future economic and societal recovery from the Covid-19 crisis”.
“It is vital that the process continues to function, keeping an eye to the future and to keep Northern Ireland moving forward at this difficult time.
"My team is working closely with local government in partnership to ensure the planning system responds as effectively as possible.
“I am pleased to announce that I have introduced legislation today to temporarily remove the requirement for public events as part of the pre-application process for major planning applications, given that they cannot happen at this time.
“This is an essential step that will help unlock significant major planning applications across the north. If legislation is not implemented this would result in the application process being invalid, leading to a backlog of major applications which could hinder our economic recovery after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
“Public participation remains an important part of the planning process and to ensure that this is not compromised I will be publishing advice and guidance on appropriate measures to replace face to face public events, such as on-line engagement. This will ensure that pre-application public participation in the planning process can continue during the emergency period and will facilitate a more consistent approach across the 11 council areas.
"I have also made the infrastructure committee aware alongside Executive colleagues. Partnership working is required right across the board to get us through this challenging time and ensure that we are all still looking ahead to a better tomorrow. I will continue to work closely with all partners and sectors to explore creative solutions that are needed to get us through this period and beyond.”