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Northern Ireland councillors attend planning devolution summit

14 November 2013

Durkan: councillors have ‘critical’ leadership role

Over 100 councillors from across Northern Ireland attended a major event on Wednesday (13 November) organised by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) to help them learn more about the challenges and opportunities the devolution of planning powers to councils will bring.

Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan and Dr Peter Geraghty, President of the RTPI, both spoke at the event - the first time so many planning councillors had been brought together to discuss the new system.

Northern Ireland councillors 2

  • from left to right: Peter, Cllr Mike Hayes, Angus Kerr, David Mounstephen – Vice Chair of RTPI NI and Chair of Conference, and the Minister – Mark H Durkan.

Mark H Durkan, Minister of the Environment said: “I welcome the involvement of the RTPI in training councillors in preparation for the transfer of planning functions to the new councils in 2015. Councillors have a critical role to play in the transfer and with their leadership and hard work, supported by a fully developed and broadly based training programme, I am confident that the transfer will mark a successful return of planning powers to where they belong - local councils. Getting all of this right will help transform the way we plan and sustain our cities, towns and rural areas while boosting our economy and protecting our environment”.

Dr Peter Geraghty, President of the RTPI said: “It was a great opportunity to meet the DOE Minister Mark H Durkan and share experiences of planning with councillors across Northern Ireland. There is a sense of optimism about the opportunity to bring decision-making on planning applications to a more local level. It was good that RTPI was able to contribute to the conference and share knowledge and experience of planning in other jurisdictions”.

A key aim of the day, held at the Oxford Island National Nature Reserve in Craigavon, was to assist them adjust to what will be new rights and responsibilities. Councillors also discussed what the new role of an elected representative on a planning committee will entail, examined some of the pitfalls and hazards for councillors and officers, while reflecting on how positive and important the new role is going to be.

Other speakers on the day included Angus Kerr, Director DOE Planning Policy Division, Dr Roisin Willmott, Director of RTPI Wales and Northern Ireland, and Cllr Mike Haines, one of England’s most prominent independent councillors.