Planning report damning indictment of broken system, says Muir
Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has said the recent Public Accounts Committee report on planning is a “damning indictment of a broken planning system”.
The North Down MLA said the report, entitled Planning in Northern Ireland, showed the urgent need to implement all its recommendations. They include establishing an independent review alongside the need for a radical action plan to deliver immediate improvements in six months’ time, cultural change in the Department for Infrastructure, streamlining the local development plan process, plus consideration of the appropriateness of limited third-party rights of appeal.
“The planning system in Northern Ireland is broken, with applications left to linger in a system beset with delays, communities feeling powerless to respond with environmental and other concerns, and woeful progress in publishing new local development plans, which are now set to emerge in 13 years as opposed to the original target of 40 months,” said Mr Muir.
“The Department for Infrastructure can no longer preside over a multitude of serious and significant failures. A culture of indifference and indecision must be rooted out, with strong focus given to driving much better performance.
“The Department for Infrastructure urgently needs to get its house in order. The report’s finding that the ‘operation of the planning system for rural housing is at best inconsistent and at worst fundamentally broken’ cannot be ignored. This entire report is a damning indictment of a broken planning system.
“The recent review into the 2011 Planning Act was a golden opportunity for action but it was sadly missed and rejected, with the Department’s review report littered with “the Department is not persuaded” in response to so many valid suggestions for reform.
“It is my hope this report provides the impetus for both immediate short and long-term action to turn around one of the worst examples of government public service delivery.”
Infrastructure Minister publishes Planning Your Place report
The Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has published the Planning Your Place: Getting Involved report.
The report has been produced by the Planning Engagement Partnership (PEP) as part of the Department’s ongoing work to improve the planning system and crucially people’s experience of planning.
The PEP comprised a wide range of planning stakeholders all of whom are passionate about community engagement in planning, including Community Places.
Speaking as the report was published, Nichola Mallon said: “The planning system is at the heart of how our society functions.
“Planners make sure our built environment is fit for purpose – houses, schools, hospitals, roads, walking and cycling schemes, all must be in the right places to ensure they provide the services local communities need. In order for the planning system to be effective, meaningful community engagement is key.
“The transfer of local planning powers to the new 11 councils in 2015 has created the two-tier planning system and brought local planning decisions closer to those who are impacted by them.
“However, there needs to be a collective and ongoing commitment by all sectors of the planning and place shaping community, to help to improve community engagement in planning and continue to motivate our community to become more involved.
“The complexity of the planning system can very often be off-putting to becoming involved. This has to change.
“This report provides the direction and basis for improved inclusivity in planning and we must strive for improvement.
“I am grateful to the many organisations and individuals who contributed to this important publication. I look forward to seeing the implementation of your work and improvements to the planning system going forward.”
Speaking about the Planning Engagement Partnership, Louise O’Kane of Community Places said: “The Planning Engagement Partnership brought together a diverse range of interests who have invested considerable time in developing these wide-ranging recommendations.
“Community Places is committed to working with the Department and Planning Engagement Partnership members to implement and take forward the recommendations to ensure that communities have earlier and more meaningful access and engagement with planning processes to better shape local communities and place.”