Our guide to the transfer of Planning Powers to the Super Councils
The long awaited reform of Local Government in Northern Ireland will begin in earnest on the 1st of April 2015 with the current 26 councils reduced to 11. According to the DOE website ‘the new councils will be stronger, more efficient and will deliver more effective services’. The creation of these ‘Super Councils’ will also see the transfer of Planning Powers from the planning department to the 11 Council Offices and ultimately the Councillors that sit on the planning committee. The 11 new ‘Super Councils’ are:
- Antrim and Newtownabbey District.
- Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District.
- Belfast District.
- Causeway Coast and Glens District.
- Derry and Strabane District.
- Fermanagh and Omagh District.
- Lisburn and Castlereagh District.
- Mid and East Antrim District.
- Mid Ulster District.
- Newry, Mourne and Down District
- North Down and Ards District.
What does this mean for planning applications?
For most applications there will be no noticeable difference beyond the obvious settling in issues and applicants should not worry; however, for a small number of contentious applications there will be obvious changes. Currently the Councillors have the power to ask the Planning Department to relook at an application where they believe an incorrect decision has been issued. In practice this power has allowed contentious applications a second chance to achieve a positive decision. This second chance will be removed as part of the transfer of powers and will make planning for the unusual designs, which 2020 Architects specialise in, more difficult. Contentious applications and unusual designs will rely heavily on both pre-application discussions with the council planners, and more importantly the relationship and experience that an agent has with the council planners and achieving such designs.
At the moment the finer details of how the planning committees are to be arranged is yet to be confirmed but it is expected that not all councillors will automatically sit on the planning committee. If current council protocol holds then decisions will be made by majority and as such some applications will be refused or approved on the decision of one councillor!
If you have any questions about planning, please don’t hesitate to get in touch here.