Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has published a review of the implementation of the Planning Act (NI) 2011.
The Department for Infrastructure was required to review the act’s implementation and to assess whether its objectives have been achieved.
The review saw collaboration with a broad cross-section of stakeholders as well as a targeted call for evidence, which included all councils, statutory planning consultees, community, business and environmental interests, political parties and members of the public.
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Mallon said: “I am pleased to publish the first report on the review of the implementation of the Planning Act (NI) 2011.
“I welcome that the review found that the vast majority of provisions within the Planning Act have been implemented and that the reformed two tier planning system envisaged by the assembly when the act was made has been established.
“Locally accountable councils are delivering planning by bringing forward local development plans, determining the vast majority of planning applications in their respective areas, and taking enforcing action against breaches of planning control.
“I am fully aware, however, of parts of the planning system which could be improved, including the time it is taking for councils to bring forward their local development plans and the speed at which major planning applications are processed.
“Having considered available evidence and listened to stakeholders the review brings forward a series of recommendations for changes to the Act, subordinate legislation and guidance aimed at improving the planning system.
“These include reviewing the consultation requirements in plan-making, improving the quality of planning applications submitted and increasing the use of digital technology in the planning system.
“Reviewing the statutory consultations process, including timeframes for consultations responses, penalties for late responses and how councils can proceed if statutory consultees do not respond within the required timeframes.
“Reviewing categories of development and the department’s approach to call in notifications and reviewing aspects of the appeals system around new material, and the variation of proposals at appeal.
“There is still much we need to do to build a better planning system that delivers for all stakeholders.
“This report sets out some of the next legislative and other steps we can take, and I am confident will provide the foundations to take forward real improvements across the planning system.”
Daryl McIntosh, policy manager of Propertymark, said: “The Review of Planning Act (NI) 2011 report is timely, given the ongoing work to develop a housing strategy for Northern Ireland and commitment to deliver 100,000 homes by 2037.
“The report makes clear that, while the planning system has been greatly improved by implementation of the act, inefficiencies and resource constraints are still a significant barrier to development.
“In order to increase the supply of all types and tenures, the Northern Ireland executive must prioritise further reforms to ensure that local development plans are brought forward and application deadlines are more consistently met to provide greater certainty for the sector.
“Sufficient resources must be made available to facilitate this, and to achieve the broader objectives to provide affordable housing options for all.”