Planning system changes on hold

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PROPOSED changes to separate the government planning committee from the Department of Infrastructure have been put on hold.

The department launched a five-week public consultation in April on the Town and Country Planning (Development Procedure) (Amendment) Order 2011.

This week the department announced it was currently giving ‘careful consideration’ to the comments received and has decided not to proceed with the order at this stage.

The changes were initially due to be brought in from August 1.

Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK said: ‘I am grateful to those who took the time to respond to the consultation.

‘It is increasingly clear that a wider review of the planning legislative framework is required and the aims of this order need to be carefully considered in the context of such a revision.

‘My department is actively considering the legislative priorities for planning, which will also need to include the matters identified in this order.’

David Quirk MHK, member for planning, said: ‘These changes were proposed to deal with administrative matters resulting from the reorganisation of government and to create a clearer separation between the department and the planning committee.’

In the consultation document, Mr Gawne said the proposed changes addressed planning procedural issues and provide for a clear separation between the department as the body responsible for making the legislative and policy framework and the planning committee which is responsible for determining applications against the framework.

Proposals included changing the membership of the planning committee so members were not also Department of Infrastructure members. There would be a maximum of six members, and terms of appointment would be reduced from five to three years. Members would be able to be reappointed for a maximum of nine years in total.

The Council of Ministers would continue to appoint the committee but it would also gain the responsibility of appointing the committee chairman. Meanwhile, the requirement to refer to the CoMin for determination all applications by the department or in which the department has an interest, would have been deleted.

Mr Gawne said the impact of the changes proposed would have been ‘minimal’, as they were mainly administrative and intended to ‘rationalise administrative processes’.

The department received 29 written responses.

In a summary of findings, the department said the ‘majority of responses’ were in favour of the proposed amendments to the order.

But Ballawattleworth Action Group was not in favour of the order being progressed, recommending that no changes should be made to the planning system until after the general election.

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