Response to Planning Stats 30 July 2012
Attwood responds to Planning Performance Statistics
Annual statistics published today highlight a continuing decline in the number of planning applications, an increase in approval rates and significantly a large increase in demand for installing renewable energy.
Four out of five applications for renewal energy have been approved.
The statistics also show that the backlog of planning applications are being cleared. In being successful here, this skews the figure for planning process performance, the more you deal with older cases the mean figure for indicating the length of time dealing with applications increases.
Alex Attwood said: “When
I took over the environment portfolio I was keen that planning improved and
that it played a key role in protecting the environment and developing our
economy. There are many instances where decisions I have made have ensured that
has happened with a new golf complex at Runkerry and the possibility of 1,100
new jobs at Greenbank in Newry being notable examples.
“A key issue that
concerned me was the large backlog in planning applications. This needed to be
cleared to help develop our economy and that is welcome. The high approval
rates, nine out of ten for all applications of planning applications will also
help our economy grow.
“Further, I put a strong emphasis on the contribution that renewable energy makes to the environment and economy of the North and I am pleased to note that applications for renewable energy have more than doubled in the last four to five years. Approval rates are high, with four out of five renewable applications approved. including every one of the applications for hydroelectric projects, biomass and anaerobic digesters. This is all good news for developing our green economy, a key objective of mine. Renewable electricity and technology is our single biggest economic opportunity and our aim is to be world leader in carbon reduction.
“Nevertheless I want to see a big improvement in the time taken
to approve planning applications. Too many applications are in the system for
too long. I have set challenging targets for this year and the next two years
in order to speed up the planning process and assist economic recovery. I
require planning staff to meet these new targets and have made this clear to
senior staff in the Department.
processing times and high approval rates in many cases reflects an approach of
engagement with applicants, agents, elected representatives and the public to
negotiate an acceptable scheme. What I want to ensure is that acceptable
schemes are submitted at an early stage , after pre application discussions for
major projects and with full engagement with the community. That is why I have
asked my officials and the sporting bodies to pilot pre application community consultation for the stadia
projects at Casement Park and Windsor Park in advance of the introduction of
the new legislation.
“The performance on
enforcement is not good enough and I have made it clear to officials that it
needs to be improved. I recently convened an enforcement summit to consider
compliance and enforcement functions and specifically consider what measures
are currently deployed in dealing with enforcement, what resources are needed
to escalate enforcement and what is the best enforcement architecture for the
future in terms of legislation, policy and structures. I plan to follow–up
these discussions to deliver an enforcement system that is robust, adequately
resourced and operates as an effective deterrent to environmental and planning
Approval rates for all applications increased from 89% to 92% with approximately 95% of applications for commercial and mixed use developments approved.
Approval rates were highest in Ballymoney and Cookstown District Council Areas where 97% of all applications were approved, with Omagh District having the lowest approval rate at 85%. 1252 applications were decided in Belfast City Council area and approximately 84% were approved.