Could impending changes to Northern Ireland planning policy affect you?

In 2015 there was a major restructuring of Northern Irish councils. The existing 28 councils reformed to become 11 new super councils. Notably there was also a major change to the planning process; powers shifted from the DOE (Department of the Environment) to each separate council.

As part of this change each of the 11 council’s has created a Local Development Plan and in these plans most are seeking changes to existing planning policy; most dramatically in their redefining of the infill policy for the countryside and a renewed focus on affordable houses in towns and villages. With many of these new plans due for consideration in the Winter of 2020 and Spring of 2021 CPS Planning’s’ Lead Planning Consultant, Jason Martin, is here to tell us what these potential changes will mean.

Today our expert will focus on potential changes to infill policy.

Jason, what is an infill dwelling and what will the proposed changes to policy mean?

Infill dwelling sites are undeveloped gaps in a row of buildings where the gap is only large enough to allow a maximum of 2 houses. They are common in rural areas and typically easy to develop. The changes councils want to make to infill policy, if they are passed, will make it much harder if not impossible to get future planning passed on an infill site in the Northern Irish countryside. Anybody with a site would be advised to apply for planning as soon as possible if they want to develop it.

What exactly are the changes that councils are proposing?

Well, presently to comply with policy there needs to be a minimum of 3 buildings in a row already existing to create an infill dwelling site. The gap for development will lie somewhere between this row of 3 buildings. Again, this is a fairly common pattern in rural areas. Councils want to stop these gaps from being developed because they feel that the resulting terrace effect is a pattern that is better suited to towns and cities. They want to protect the provincial character of the countryside. To stop any more patterns like this appearing in the Northern Irish countryside councils are proposing to change the number of buildings needing to already exist to be able develop an infill dwelling site. They want an increase from at least 3 buildings to at least 5. 5 existing buildings in a row is extremely uncommon. The result of this change will mean little to no more development of infill sites and no more terrace effect rows of houses in the countryside. Additionally, councils want to make changes to the type of building that will count towards the built-up frontage and make that criteria stricter.

If you have an infill dwelling site that might be affected by these changes you really need to apply for planning now in case these changes to policy are approved.
The table below lists the timeline for when these changes are likely to come into effect for each of the 11 councils. Belfast City Council has the most robust plan and with the LDP being currently considered by the PAC, changes are likely to be adopted before the end of 2020.

The remaining councils will presumably have their LDP’s adopted by the end of 2021, with the exception of the four councils currently at the Preferred Options Stage.

Council Current Status Projected Adoption
Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council Preferred Options Paper Spring 2023
Mid & East Antrim Borough Council Draft Plan Released Spring 2021
Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council Draft Plan Released Spring 2021
Belfast City Council Independent Examination Winter 2020
Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Draft Plan Released Winter 2021
Ards & North Down Borough Council Preferred Options Paper Winter 2021
Newry, Mourne & Down District Council Preferred Options Paper Winter 2022
Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council Preferred Options Paper Spring 2021
Mid Ulster District Council Draft Plan Released Winter 2020
Fermanagh & Omagh District Council Draft Plan Released Summer 2021
Derry City & Strabane District Council Draft Plan Released Winter 2021

If you would like any further information about the impending changes or would like advice on getting planning for a rural site please contact 2020 Architects.

In the next article our expert will talk about how the changes to policy will impact ‘affordable housing in towns and villages.