Local councils in Northern Ireland are to take on responsibility for planning decisions in their areas under new proposals.
Environment Minister Edwin Poots told MLAs that the legislation should be passed before the end of the Assembly term in April and would hand powers to the existing 26 councils.
The same powers would then be taken on by the new 11 council model to be introduced by the next Assembly, while new safeguards would also be put in place.
"Councils will no longer be consultees," said the minister.
"They will be the planning authority - responsible for drawing up their own development plans and making the vast majority of planning decisions."