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Mar, 2015

Local Government & Planning Reform Back to basics – What are the benefits?? March 2015

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The reform of local government will see the reduction of 26 councils to 11.  The 11 new councils will take over on 1 April 2015.


Council Responsibilities and functions

A number of key functions such as planning, urban regeneration, local economic development and local tourism, will be transferred to the new ‘super councils’ allowing them to shape their areas and communities.



• Councils are to be given more power at a local level, as they will lead and facilitate a community planning process. This will enable councils, in partnership with other public service providers and departments, to influence how and where services are provided, allowing for a more flexible approach to meet local needs without duplication.

Importantly, community planning will also place a duty on key departments and agencies to be engaged in the community planning process and to have regard for the community plan when considering how best to deliver services at local level. This should help the public sector as a whole to maximise the impact of public spend.

• Councils’ new duty to make arrangements for community planning will place elected representatives at the forefront of local service delivery. Through effective community engagement and an understanding of local issues, delivery of services will be more responsive to the needs of citizens.


What can C. McIlvar Ltd do for you in the new planning system?

As a planning agent who has been working at a local level providing planning advice for local people I am aware of the range of planning issues facing the people in the housing, farming and business sectors.

Through ten years of experience working with planners and local councillors, we can help guide, develop and co-ordinate client’s expectations and needs as our locally elected members become familiar with their new role and the new planning policy.

Under the new system, local councillors and communities will have a real opportunity to transform the look and feel of their own areas and create places that reflect the local culture and environment. Our familiarity with the new planning policy and our experience with the planning department and local councillors across Northern Ireland leaves us well placed to co-ordinate and achieve the most cost effective and efficient planning outcomes for your project!!

Get in touch for a site visit or consultation!!

See further details of the planning reform below


Planning reform

Planning is changing. On 1 April 2015, the Department of the Environment will transfer responsibility for the majority of planning functions to local government. This change will allow local councils to shape how their areas grow and develop.


Changes to planning

From 1 April 2015, the responsibility for planning will be shared between the new councils and the Department of the Environment (DOE).

Following transfer, the 11 new councils will be responsible for:

  • local development planning – creating a plan which will set out how the council area should look in the future by deciding what type and scale of development should be encouraged and where it should be located
  • development management – determining the vast majority of planning applications
  • planning enforcement – investigating alleged breaches of planning control and determining what action should be taken

DOE will retain responsibility for:

  • determination of regionally significant applications
  • regional planning policy
  • planning legislation
  • oversight and guidance for councils, including the power to ‘call-in’ and make the decision on an application that has been submitted to a council

New improvements will be introduced to make planning a speedier, simpler and more streamlined process. They will make it easier for the public to access and take part in the planning process and help deliver faster and more predictable decisions.


New planning process,

Planning applications will be categorised as local, major and regionally significant with councils responsible for determining all local and major applications. Each council will establish a planning committee to consider and decide these applications but not all applications will come before the planning committee for decision. The vast majority of applications will be delegated to experienced planners to decide. The council will publish a Scheme of Delegation that will set out these different categories of applications. The applications those are likely to come before the committee for decision may include large developments, contentious applications and those that receive a number of objections.


Planning applications and planning queries

Currently all planning applications and planning queries should be directed to your local area planning office where experienced planners will be able to advise you. This will be the same process after 1 April 2015. The only thing that might change is the location of your local office.

Each new council area will have its own local planning office so you may find that your nearest planning office is much closer than before. These new offices will open before 1 April so before visiting or calling your local office, check the list of planning offices at the link below, which will be updated as each new office opens.


Benefits of this new approach

The reform of planning will bring many benefits, including:

  • local decision making – local councillors know the local environment, local needs and views of local people and so are best placed to make the decisions on how their area should grow and develop
  • meeting local need – councils will be able to approve planning choices suited to local communities and will have greater freedom to respond to local need. They will also be able to ensure that the needs of local businesses are taken into account which can help create jobs and growth in the local economy
  • community involvement – the new local development plan process requires councils to consult with local communities. This gives you a real opportunity to have a say in shaping the look and feel of your local area


Important Dates

DOE will continue to process all planning applications up to 31 March 2015 and the final decision to grant or refuse planning permission will be the responsibility of the Department.

On 1 April 2015, DOE will transfer to councils any major or local applications that have not been determined. The council will be responsible for making the decision on these applications, along with deciding all new major and local applications that are submitted after 1 April.



If you are unsure which new council area you are in or for further information about the transfer of planning in general please contact C.McILvar Ltd who will be happy to assist. 


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