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Just a third of Belfast plans processed in statutory time


The £500m Tribeca is one Belfast scheme which received approval recently

The £500m Tribeca is one Belfast scheme which received approval recently

The £500m Tribeca is one Belfast scheme which received approval recently

Just over a third of major planning applications submitted to Belfast City Council last year were processed within the statutory time frame, it has emerged.

The council's Planning Performance report details how effectively it dealt with planning applications between the start of April and December 31 last year.

It has revealed that the council received 25 major planning applications, which included proposed multiple housing, office block developments and hotels, over the nine-month period and that 35% of these were processed within the 30-week target.

However, it has highlighted an improvement in performance compared to the previous year.

According to the document, 22 major applications were decided during the period, which is double the number decided in the same period the previous year.

The average processing time was 78 weeks in 2018/19, but this dropped to 37 weeks in 2019/20.

The report also highlighted the fact that 55% of local planning applications were dealt with inside the statutory 15-week target.

Local planning applications are mostly residential and minor commercial applications and make up the vast bulk of measurable applications received.

Overall, Belfast City Council received 2,153 applications between April 1 and December 31 last year.

The number of local applications decreased by 8%, while the number of major applications was up by 20%.

A total of 1,964 decisions were issued between April 1 and December 31 last year, which is 13% more than the same period in 2018, when 1,710 decisions were issued.

Of these, 93% were approved, which is 5% more than the same period the year before.

Up to the end of last year, 94 applications were refused planning permission.

Half of all appeals were allowed and the remainder were dismissed - this is higher than usual where it is expected that about a third of appeals would be allowed.

The report said: "In accordance with the recommendations of the 2019 internal audit of the Planning Service, processes are being introduced to better understand appeal decisions so that lessons can be learned."

It continued: "Overall performance during this period is extremely positive with improvement across all areas.

"We are exceeding the statutory processing targets for both local applications and enforcement, and while we are not yet meeting the performance target for processing major applications, overall performance has improved by 41 weeks, down from 78 to 37 weeks.

"The role of the planning committee in Belfast City Council is a crucial one, as it is responsible for making considered decisions on significant, sometimes contentious planning applications.

"During this period, the committee has decided on a wide range of applications including over 1,100 residential units, two warehouse buildings, sport pitches, public realm improvements, student accommodation, restaurants, leisure facilities and telecommunications masts to name but a few."

Belfast Telegraph