Key figures from four of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland debated planning and environmental issues at a special question time event that was organised by the Royal Town Planning Institute last week (Wednesday 20 April) at Queen's University, Belfast.
The discussion chaired by local broadcaster Wendy Austin, saw around 65 audience members drawn from public, private and community sectors, academia as well as other leading figures from the property, construction and environmental communities set out their concerns and views on a wide range of pressing issues facing the planning system.
The panel addressed the fragmentation of planning functions across the various Government departments, resourcing of local government reform, third party rights of appeal, delivery of infrastructure projects, the future of the area plan framework and the role of the environment where economic considerations may have priority in the next Assembly.
RTPI NI Chair Diana Thompson welcomed the timing of the debate, coinciding as it does, with the Planning Bill awaiting Royal Assent.
Speaking about the event she said: \"These are extremely interesting days for the planning profession. The event coincides with the launch of the political parties' manifestos and planning seems to have a significantly higher profile than in previous elections.
It is clear that there is a growing interest in planning issues and the RTPI is thrilled to be able to provide a forum for our members and the general public to engage with our local politicians so that together we can create a planning system that drives and delivers sustainable economic development, while protecting our natural and built environment and makes an effective contribution to the well being of our country and its citizens.\"
The event was convened with the support of the Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning at Queens University and was kindly sponsored by Carson McDowell Solicitors, Michael Burroughs Associates Planning, Development and Licensing Consultants and Pragma Planning and Development Consultants.