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Planning bill will streamline planning system, says committee

Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment today published its Report on the Planning Bill, which details the Committee’s consideration and views on the Bill. 

The Planning Bill provides for faster decisions on planning applications, enhanced community involvement, faster and fairer appeals, tougher and simper enforcement as well as a strengthened sustainable development duty for the Department.  

Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, Simon Hamilton MLA, said: “The Planning Bill introduces a number of important provisions that will modernise and strengthen the planning system. The Committee is keen to ensure that these provisions come into effect as soon as possible, and ahead of the transfer of planning functions to local councils in 2015.

“During its scrutiny, the Committee paid close attention to two new clauses, which are intended to underpin the role of planning in promoting economic development. We have listened to the views of stakeholders and considered all the evidence carefully, and we are satisfied that these clauses are appropriate and will improve the planning process.

"It is right that the planning system should promote economic development but it must do so while also promoting sustainable development and improving well-being. However, we do think it would be worthwhile for a review of these provisions to be carried out after three years, and the Department has agreed to bring forward an amendment in line with our recommendation.

Mr Hamilton concluded: “The Committee will continue to keep a close eye on planning issues both now and in the future so that we can ensure that our planning system is as streamlined and effective as it can and should be.”

Notes to Editor: The primary objective of the Planning Bill is to accelerate the implementation of reforms contained within the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, ahead of the transfer of planning powers to local councils.

The Bill also brings forward amendments to the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.

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The Committee’s report can be found  here.

Committee Membership: Ms Anna Lo MLA (Chairperson); Mr Simon Hamilton MLA (Deputy Chairperson); Mr Sydney Anderson MLA; Mr Cathal Boylan MLA; Mr Colum Eastwood MLA; Mr Tom Elliott MLA; Mr Dolores Kelly MLA; Mr Barry McElduff MLA; Mr Ian Milne MLA; Lord Morrow MLA; Mr Peter Weir MLA.