Mallon Publishes Key Planning Report

Minister Mallon publishes report on the review of the implementation of the Planning Act (NI) 2011

Minister Mallon publishes report on the review of the implementation of the Planning Act (NI) 2011

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has today published the first review of the implementation of the Planning Act (NI) 2011.

The Department for Infrastructure is required to review the Act’s implementation and to assess whether its objectives have been achieved. The Review involved collaboration with a broad cross-section of stakeholders as well as a targeted call for evidence exercise, which included all councils, statutory planning consultees, community, business and environmental interests, political parties and members of the public.   

Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon.

Minister Mallon said: “I am pleased to publish the first Report on the Review of the Implementation of the Planning Act (NI) 2011.

“I welcome that the review found that the vast majority of provisions within the Planning Act have been implemented and that the reformed two tier planning system envisaged by the Assembly when the Act was made has been established.  

“Locally accountable councils are delivering planning by bringing forward local development plans, determining the vast majority of planning applications in their respective areas, and taking enforcing action against breaches of planning control.”

The Minister continued: “I am fully aware, however, of parts of the planning system which could be improved, including the time it is taking for councils to bring forward their local development plans and the speed at which major planning applications are processed. 

“Having considered available evidence and listened to stakeholders the review brings forward a series of recommendations for changes to the Act, subordinate legislation and guidance aimed at improving the planning system. These include:

  • reviewing the consultation requirements in plan-making;
  • improving the quality of planning applications submitted;
  • increasing the use of digital technology in the planning system;
  • review the statutory consultations process, including timeframes for consultations responses, penalties for late responses and how councils can proceed if statutory consultees do not respond within the required timeframes;
  • reviewing categories of development and the Department’s approach to call in notifications; and
  • reviewing aspects of the appeals system around new material, and the variation of proposals at appeal”.

The Minister concluded: “There is still much we need to do to build a better planning system that delivers for all stakeholders. This report sets out some of the next legislative and other steps we can take, and I am confident will provide the foundations to take forward real improvements across the planning system.

The review report is available on the Department’s website at:

The findings and recommendations in the review have also been welcomed by both the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), and the Construction Employers Federation NI (CEFNI).

Dr Roisin Willmott OBE FRTPI, Director of Wales and Northern Ireland and Planning Aid England said:  “The decision to reform planning services in Northern Ireland to enable a structure to improve efficiency and effectiveness was a very welcome move. The reforms however should not be thought of as simple or easy to achieve and did not end with the Planning Act (NI) 2011.

“The Act, along with local government reform, have made a significant difference, but the journey continues in enabling planning services to be efficient, effective and importantly delivering positive outcomes for communities across Northern Ireland.

“This Review is an important step in the journey and provides valuable evidence of where further change is needed, but also where work is needed beyond legislation. Further investment in planning services is needed to enable it to deliver outcomes for society in Northern Ireland, as well as delivering efficiencies.”

Mr David Fry, CEFNI Director of External Affairs said: “Given the significant interest from our membership in the review, it is welcome to see the Minister and the Department publish this detailed report today. There is much to be reflected on and debated within it as we move towards the new legislation to be tabled in the next Assembly mandate.

“Crucially, we need a planning system that helps us meet the challenge of the infrastructure deficit that we all face. At its core it must be a system which, for instance, recognises the significant under supply of new build housing and how legislative and policy change can enable a significant uplift in the number of new home completions year-on-year. This review report, and the next steps that are laid out, will enable changes to the existing legislation with the intent of making our planning system better. We welcome that and look forward to advancing our views throughout this process.”

Muir Says Planning Review Is A Missed Opportunity

Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has said the recently published review into Northern Ireland’s planning system is a massive missed opportunity.

Alliance MLA Andrew Muir.

The North Down MLA added the Infrastructure Minister should re-consider her decision not to pursue numerous key changes recommended by many who responded to the consultation. The report on the review of the implementation of the 2011 Planning Act was published after consultation finished in April last year.

An amendment was inserted whilst finalising the Act requiring a review and publication of a report concerning implementation of the Act.

“I am profoundly disappointed Minister Nichola Mallon has failed to take the opportunity to improve our planning system after hopes were raised over last year the chance for change could have been grasped,” said Mr Muir.

“Our planning system significantly affects local communities, is a key driver for economic growth and enables us to tackle the climate crisis. Evidence presented during the review highlighted a wide range of concerns and the need for action, yet the report falls short.

“Refusal to take forward many of the changes proposed by consultees leaves us with a broken planning system and a future where problems highlighted in the review are just perpetrated year after year. Faced with a mountain of examples why our planning system is not fit for purpose, it’s hard not to feel the Department for Infrastructure has just keeping its head in the sand.

“With a climate emergency already declared requiring a clear and coherent response from planning, communities frustrated their voices are not being heard and atrociously slow processing times for planning applications, we cannot afford to let this whitewash of a report to stand.”