Neil Calvin

C60 Planning Director Neil Calvin outlines progress on the devolution of planning powers to the new Super Councils within Northern Ireland.

On 1st April 2015 local government reform in Northern Ireland will see the current 26 councils reduced to 11 ‘Super Councils.’ In addition planning powers will be de-centralised and the logistical challenge of redeploying all those centralised planning staff to Councils has now begun in earnest.

Early Adopters

“In preparation for the transfer of planning functions to the 11 new councils, a number of the new local planning offices will open in advance of transfer, with a staged approach across the province.”

From 19 January 2015 planning services for the new Lisburn and Castlereagh council area will be delivered from the Island Civic Centre, Lagan Valley Island, Lisburn; from 26 January 2015 planning services for the new Antrim and Newtownabbey council area will be delivered from Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey; and from 2 February 2015, planning services for the new Mid Ulster council area will be delivered from the Magherafelt Council offices on Ballyronan Road, Magherafelt (more to follow)

Who will Staff the New Planning Offices?

Certain staff are being moved from the current DOE Local Planning Offices into council offices corresponding with their area. These staff will continue with their normal planning functions while working alongside their new council colleagues.

Planning for Planners

This joint venture between DOE and local councils aim to have their new teams in place before planning formally transfers to councils on 1 April 2015, though DOE remains responsible for these staff and the delivery of planning services until 31 March 2015.   While it is clear planning is in place for our planners, and the Department has pledged that ‘the experienced staff involved will work to ensure continuity of service’, C60 anticipate some degree of transitional difficulties and delay while the planning staff ‘bed in’ to their new arrangements.     Our team is monitoring the situation and can advise if you have any queries.

What will change?

While some planning functions will remain centralised, such as deciding regionally significant applications and setting regional planning policy and legislation, the transfer of planning powers to the new councils will see local councils responsible for:

  • Developing a local plan which will set out what the council area should look like and how land should be used and developed.     C60 will be looking closely at how the new local plans develop, so follow our blog for regular updates.
  • Making decisions on the majority of planning applications.
  • Investigating alleged breaches of planning control and determining what enforcement action should be taken.

What about your projects?

It is the intention of the Department , that all current applications going through the planning system will move to the new planning offices along with staff, who will continue to process these applications .

If you have a specific project that you are considering and want advice on how transfer of planning powers to affect you contact C60 to discuss it with our Chartered Town Planners.