Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today published the Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland (SPPS)~ Monday, 28 September 2015
In essence, this is ‘the go to guide’ for everyone involved in the local planning system. The SPPS reduces 20 separate planning policy statements to one. This provides the policy on key issues such as town centres and retail development, building in the countryside, creating and enhancing shared space, tourism, telecommunications and housing.
Significantly, it also sets in black and white, for the first time, as policy, no to unconventional hydrocarbon extraction, often referred to as fracking. This could only change in the future if the Department is satisfied that there is sufficient and robust evidence on all environmental impacts of fracking.
Mark H Durkan said: “Publishing the SPPS unlocks development potential, supports job creation and will aid economic recovery but not at the expense of our planet, environment and people. It consolidates over 800 pages of existing policy in to a single document and brings clarity and certainty to important planning matters throughout the North.
“Significantly for the first time, no to fracking is actually enshrined in policy unless there is sufficient and robust evidence of its safety on all environmental impacts. I believe this is a sensible and reasonable approach.
“The SPPS introduces a revised strategic direction for Town Centre and Retailing Policy. It advocates a ‘town centres first’ approach to the location of future retailing and town centre uses which will support and sustain vibrant town centres across the North.
“The SPPS will enable councils to be flexible in bringing forward planning policy tailored to local circumstances through their new Local Development Plans.
“The overall objective of the planning system is to further sustainable development and improve well-being for the people of the North. I believe that planning is fundamentally about creating and enhancing shared space, places where communities flourish and enjoy a sense of belonging, both now and into the future. I am confident that the SPPS and the return of planning functions to councils will help achieve that.”
Commenting on the process in producing SPPS the Minister said: “Consultation on the draft SPPS promoted a lively and constructive debate on the appropriate planning policy context for the introduction of the newly reformed two-tier planning system which came into effect on the 1 April. I have listened to what people have had to say, and taken into account the comments received. As a result, I believe the final SPPS has been much improved. There were significant issues raised which were beyond the scope of finalising the SPPS, particularly in relation to strategic policy for renewable energy and strategic policy development in the countryside. As such, I now intend to undertake a full review of these matters. This review work will incorporate extensive engagement with key stakeholders.”
Mark H Durkan concluded: “This key document will help ensure that the planning system delivers for all now and for future generations.”
Welcoming the publication of the SPPS Roisin Willmott, the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Director for Northern Ireland commented: “This is good news for our members and for Northern Ireland. The much anticipated SPPS will be a catalyst for positive change on the ground. It will greatly aid the preparation of Councils’ new local development plans, providing a clear, practical and integrated policy framework for good decisions in the long term public interest.”
For further information on the new Strategic Planning Policy Statement for N.I. and how it may affect you or your project please contact C.McILvar Ltd who will be happy to advise.