The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has published its detailed response to the consultation on the new draft Single Planning Policy Statement.
NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “While we welcome the broad thrust of the Single Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) it does need more work to ensure it is fit for purpose for our economy, environment and future growth of our town centres.
“We want to see a Planning Service which makes timely and responsible decisions, focusing on sustainable economic applications which create real jobs and prosperity.
“In just under a year’s time our new eleven Councils will assume responsibility for most planning decisions and it is crucial they are fully prepared.
“SPSS focuses on economic considerations and states that large scale investment proposals with job creation potential will be given particular priority. NIIRTA would reiterate that not all economic growth is sustainable. In practice most out- of- town retail developments claim significant investment and employment, but in reality simply results in relocation of jobs out of town or city centres
“NIIRTA wants to see planning applications, which have real and sustainable economic potential. In furthering sustainable development there is a need to balance economic, social and environmental objectives in a clear and objective manner in the management of development and decision taking otherwise economic factors will be determining.
“We agree with the town centre first and sequential test approach and support the enhancement and diversity in the range of town centre uses. All leisure, cultural, community, housing and business facilities should be directed toward the town centre in order to promote town centres as the first choice for business. Applicants proposing these uses outside the town centre should have to demonstrate why it couldn’t be located at a town or city centre site through a site selection process,” added Mr Roberts.