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Network for councillors extended to Northern Ireland

26 October 2012

Colin Haylock at StormontA free network for councillors interested in planning issues extended to councillors in Northern Ireland, announced Colin Haylock President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), at an event held at Stormont earlier this week (Wednesday 24 October). The RTPI is the largest professional institute for planners in Europe representing 23,000 planners in the public and private sectors.

The decision to extend the Politicians in Planning Association (PIPA) to councillors in Northern Ireland has been made ahead of the transfer of planning powers and responsibilities to councils in 2015. PIPA has been previously open to members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, but not to councillors.

The announcement took place at a training day aimed at councillors in the Long Gallery in Stormont, kindly hosted by Simon Hamilton MLA. Minister of the Environment, Alex Attwood MLA provided the keynote address for the event.

Colin Haylock (pictured above in Stormont), President of the RTPI, said: "The RTPI will play its part in building the capacity and expertise of councillors involved in planning in Northern Ireland. We know that engaged and knowledgeable councillors are essential for an effective devolved planning system, which is why I am delighted to announce that the RTPI's Politicians in Planning Association (PIPA) is now open to councillors in Northern Ireland. PIPA is a free mechanism for councillor networking which has regular email bulletins which disseminate information, news, and best practice. PIPA will be also consulting with councillors about whether an on-line discussion forum aimed at 'planning councillors' in Northern Ireland would be useful."

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: "Overall, reform of local government will bring planning back to where I believe it belongs - in the local community - and make it more locally accountable, giving local politicians the opportunity to shape the areas within which they are elected.  With less than 900 days to go to transfer, there is a need to ensure that staff and councillors are all prepared for the changes.  I believe, however, that, if done right, this can be the liberation of councils and I intend to ensure that we will get this right."

The 2011 Planning Act (Northern Ireland) allows for the transfer and responsibilities of planning to councils that will take place in 2015. Eleven new councils will have the responsibility for preparing local development plans, determining the majority of planning applications and taking enforcement action.

Minister Alex Attwood (Minister of the Environment), Colin Haylock (President of the RTPI), Ross Martin (Policy Director at the Centre for Scottish Public Policy), and Alderman Jim Dillon (Chair of NILGA's Planning Working Group) gave presentations at the event.