An attack by Environment Minister Sammy Wilson on his own planning officials was criticised last night by civil service union Nipsa.
Mr Wilson rounded on DoE planners over a refusal decision for what would have been been the tallest building in Belfast.
The verdict on the Aurora project, tabled by Ballycastle company McAlister Holdings, related to its impact on the surrounding neighbourhood in Great Victoria Street.
Mr Wilson said: “Planning officers have a role to play in kick-starting the economy and in this case they have failed and failed abysmally.”
Paddy Mackel of the public sector union Nipsa last night expressed his “shock” at the criticism from Minister Wilson.
He said that planning decisions are taken independently by officials in line with established procedures.
McAlister Holdings is expected to challenge the refusal through the Planning Appeals Commission.
Belfast City Council’s planning committee — which numbers Mr Wilson among its members — has asked DoE planning chiefs to re-examine the case.
Mr Mackel said the minister should either apologise or clarify that he was not accusing officials of failing to follow procedure.
“We do not expect the minister to undermine the position of our members and his staff in the department,” he added.