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Northern Ireland councillors prepare for devolution of planning powers

08 November 2013

Dr Peter Geraghty

With over 120 councillors and civil servants attending, the majority of councils in Northern Ireland will be represented at a training event on Wednesday (13 November) organised by the Royal Town Planning Institute Northern Ireland (RTPI NI) at the Oxford Island National Nature Reserve in Craigavon to learn more about the challenges and opportunities the devolution of planning powers to councils will bring.

Representing 23,000 members, the RTPI is the largest institute of professional planners in Europe, and is able to draw on international expertise and its network of ‘planning councillors’ to support the transition.

Featuring Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan, Dr Peter Geraghty, President of the RTPI and a senior local government official in England, Cllr Mike Haines, one of England’s most prominent independent councillors, and Angus Kerr, Director DOE Planning Policy Division, and Dr Roisin Willmott, Director of RTPI Wales and Northern Ireland, the event is aimed at helping councillors adjust to what will be new rights and responsibilities.

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.”

Dr Peter Geraghty, President of the RTPI said: “Devolution of planning powers provides a great opportunity for councillors to shape their area. It’s a significant change for councillors as for the very first time they will have the responsibility for deciding applications. I’m delighted that the RTPI is able to draw on its international expertise to provide training and advice to help councillors make the transition.”

The aim of the event is to provide a realistic reflection of what the role of an elected representative on a planning committee will entail, look at some of the pitfalls and hazards for councillors and officers while reflecting on how positive and important the role is.