The legal action where appropriate against those who

The department is reviewing
enforcement provisions to ensure they are sufficiently robust and considering
whether any new proposals, similar to those recently in Scotland should be
developed for Northern Ireland. The arguments for and against introducing
criminal offence for commencing development without planning permission are
also considered. The departments key objectives for planning enforcement are to
bring unauthorised development under control including the removal or cessation
of unacceptable development and take legal action where appropriate against
those who ignore the planning legislation. All enforcement functions and
responsibilities will transfer to district councils when the review of public
administration (RPA) is implemented .


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As part of the new development
management approach, the department is proposing the creation of a 3 tier
hierarchy of development so that greater resources can be directed at those
applications with economic and social significance, through more proportionate
decisions making mechanism, tailored according to the scale and complexity of
the proposed development. With this the department propose to introduce a new
processing arrangement for types of applications within the 3-tier hierarchy.
These will improve the predictability of timescales and ensure effective
engagement with community and other stakeholders.

Development management is the
ability of the system to deal speedily with key planning applications that have
real economic and social benefit is central to delivering the vision of the
planning system that is fit for purpose and which will underpin a modern and
prosperous Northern Ireland. The department proposes to adopt a concept of
development for handling planning applications, with a greater emphasis on
facilitating and shaping development and away from mainly controlling it.

Development management


Development plans apply regional
policies at the appropriate local level and inform the general public statutory
authorities, developers and other interested bodies of the policy framework and
land use proposals that will guide development decisions within a specified
area. At present all types of development plans are prepared by the department
of environment (DOE). Development plans allocate appropriate land for differing
types of land use and, as well as setting out the main planning requirements
which developers are expected to meet in respect of particular zoned sites , they
also show designations such as conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural
beauty, sites of local nature conservation importance and so on. In making
decisions on planning applications the planning authority must have regard to
relevant provisions of the development plan for the area.

The new local development plan
system will provide more clarity and predictability for developers, the public
and other stakeholders. It will also assist the new 11 district councils target
action to tackle social need and promote social inclusion.

Ø  Ensure a
more. Flexible approach that is responsive to change and capable of faster

Ø  Ensure more
effective participation from the community and other key stakeholders early in
plan preparation

Ø  Speed up
the plan preparation process

The department proposes to
Introduce In new local development plan system which will operate within the
two tier Planning system under the RPA, Whereby planning functions will be
administered by both district councils and the department. The proposals are
intended to:

Development plan

Part B

The planning system exists to
regulate the development and use of land in the public interest. The public
interest requires that all development is carried out in a way that would not
cause demonstrable harm to interest of acknowledge importance. It is important
to decide those matters which planning can influence from those which are
outside its control. The central concerns of the planning system are to
determine what kind of development is appropriate, how much is desirable, where
it should best be located and what it looks like

The planning policy statement sets
out general principles that the department of the environment for Northern
Ireland observers in carrying out its planning functions, planning policies,
making development plans and exercising control of development. These
principles are founded on the departments understanding of the law relevant to

 Certain planning
applications, due to their nature and scope, are classified as major
development and require the applicant to consult the community in advance of
submitting an application. Whilst the public may have already commented on a
proposal as part of a community consultation, once the planning application has
been submitted further comments can be submitted directly to the council, or as
the case may be the Department

When a decision is issued those who submitted representations
will be notified about the decision and the reasons for taking that decision.

Stage 4- Post Decision

The Council operates delegated decision making for certain
local planning applications where decisions will be taken by appointed planning
officers. For other types of planning application, including major development,
the application will alternatively be referred to the Council’s Planning
Committee for consideration and determination. This each varies with each
council area, you can refer to the councils website to check this.

Stage 3- Decision

The planning officer having undertaken a site inspection,
verified the identified occupiers on site and received all consultees’
responses completes his/her report and makes a recommendation. This
recommendation takes account of all consultation comments, any representations
from third parties and all other material considerations.  Material planning matters include adverse
environmental effects, traffic impact and impact on the established character
of a neighbourhood. It is important to remember that a decision on an application
can only consider planning matters.  The
application is then discussed and a recommendation agreed by planning

Stage 2- Consideration
and Recommendation

Following receipt the application is allocated to a planning
officer who records the identified occupiers on neighbouring land along with
appropriate consultees.  Neighbour
notification letters are issued, the application is advertised and
consultations issued. The full details of the application including any plans,
maps, drawings, environmental information etc which accompany the application
are made available to view on the PublicAccess website via the Planning Web
Portal (

Stage 1- Validation and

Stages of the planning
process after 2015

Stage 5 – If the Council agree with the opinion presented by the
Department, a decision should normally issue within 2 weeks.  However, in certain applications the local
Council may request a ‘Deferral’ of any decision in order to obtain further
information or for the Department to reconsider their opinion. This will mean
that the Department will have to carry out further consultation and a repeat of
Key Stages 2-4.  

Key Stage 4 –The Local Council’s Planning Committee will meet to
discuss and consider your application in relation to the Department’s
opinion.  This meeting is usually held
within two weeks of the Council Schedule being made publicly available.  NB Where an application meets all of the
requirements of the streamlined scheme an approval will issued on completion of
Stage 2.  

Key Stage 3 – If your application does not meet the criteria
necessary for the streamlined arrangement, brief details of your application
will appear on a Schedule of applications for presentation to the Local Council
so that they can consider your proposal along with the Department’s opinion to
approve or refuse your application. This Council Schedule will be available to
view on the Planning NI Web Portal.

Key Stage 2 – Your application will be discussed at internal
Planning Development Management Group meeting with a view to forming an opinion
to present to the next meeting of your local Council.

Key Stage 1 – During a 3 / 4 week period following receipt, your
application will be validated and neighbours notified of your proposal. Your
application will also be advertised in the press and the Department will
consult with the relevant statutory agencies and other organisations as

Stages of the planning
process prior April 2015

The department has a statutory duty
to consult the relevant council about every planning application it receives
and to consult the council during the preparation of a development plan. This
consultation forms an important part of the department’s decision making process.
As a matter of policy, the department regularly consults councils on a wider
range of matters than those required by statue. Representatives have an input
to the decision making process. The planning service will continue to seek, in
consultation with the local council, means by which within the scope permitted
by legislation these arrangements could be further improved.

Local Councils

The minister of infrastructure is
the final decision maker on all regionally significant planning applications. Planning
applications are subject to normal planning procedures and processing up until
the point of the decision. Once the report is completed and recommendation to
the minister, three process options are open to the department in determining
the application. A public local inquiry can be called before the planning
appeals commission (PAC), or other person so appointed. Information on the
circumstances of when a public local inquiry may be called is available in the department’s
statement of community involvement. When a public local inquiry is not held, a
notice of opinion to either grant of refuse planning permission will issue. This
will issue to both the applicant and the relevant councils and they will have
not less than 28 days to request a hearing before the PAC, or other person into
the department’s decision. If the hearing is not requested the final decision
will issue. In the event of a hearing or a public local inquiry, the PAC or other
person appointed will prepare a report and recommendation for consideration by
the department. The planning decision will then be taken by the department following
due consideration of the independent report and recommendation. The department
will be final.

Planning division within the department
of infrastructure (DfI) is responsible for the processing of regionally
significant planning applications under section 26 of the planning act 2011. All
planning applications will be subjected to pre application community consultation
(PACC). PACC is the responsibility of the planning applicant in advance of the
submission of a planning application. Any representations made to the applicant
during the PACC period are not representations on the planning application


Ø  Oversight
and guidance for councils;

Ø  Performance

Ø  Planning

Ø  Regional
planning policy;

Ø  Regional
Development Strategy (RDS);

Ø  Determination
of regionally significant and ‘called-in’ planning applications;

The department is responsible for:

Ø  Planning
enforcement – investigating alleged breaches of planning control and
determining what action should be taken

Ø  Development
management – determining the vast majority of planning applications;

Ø  Local
development planning – creating a plan which will set out a clear vision of 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;

Since April 1 2015 the councils are
responsible for

Following the local government
reform in April 2015, the majority of planning functions no longer rest with
the department instead this has been handed to the 11 local councils which
their elected representatives are responsible and accountable for most planning
decision. The move of most planning functions to the district councils did not
just involve the redistribution of functions but include the creation of a new
planning system for Northern Ireland requiring new roles and responsibilities
and relationships for all those involved in the planning process

Ø  Hazardous
substances planning

Ø  Waste
management planning

Ø  Minerals

Ø  Regeneration

Ø  Conservation

Ø  Formulation
of planning policy and guidance

Ø  Development

Ø  Responsible
for all aspects of development control

The planning system In northern
Ireland has made a significant change in April 2015, prior to April 2015
responsibility for planning was controlled by the Department of environment,
the DOE was the regional planning authority for northern Ireland: