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Northern Irish Planning Service commended for new streamlined consultation scheme

March 2010

Ann Skippers, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, the organisation that represents 22,000 planners, has visited the headquarters of the Planning Service in Northern Ireland to celebrate their Commendation in the RTPIs National Planning Awards for the recently introduced Streamlined Consultation Scheme which has sped up the planning process for a whole range of planning applications across the Province.

A photograph of Ann Skippers presenting the commendation to the Planning Service is available for use here. (credit RTPI, L-R Mary MacIntyre (chair NI Branch) Ann Skippers, Cynthia Smith (Chief Exec) Anne Garvey (Operations Director)

The Streamlined Scheme was first introduced as a pilot with the agreement of Derry City Council and has subsequently been adopted by all 26 Councils. Planning Service continues to work with Councils to implement an extension of the scheme, to include a wider range of types of planning applications. To date 13 Councils have agreed to operate a

Ann Skippers, President of the RTPI said:

"It's great to come to Northern Ireland and recognise the fantastic work that is being undertaken to reform and improve the planning system. The Streamlined Consultation Scheme has already had a huge impact, reducing average processing time for applications and providing greater certainty for the local development industry. It has also played a large part in helping to improve relationships between the Planning Service and Councils, agents and consultees, which is why I am delighted the NI Planning Service has achieved this commendation."

Edwin Poots, Minister for Environment said:

"The take-up of the enhanced scheme will provide further benefits to councils and applicants. The prompt processing of planning applications can only have a significant impact on the local economy, in particular for small and medium sized business enterprises submitting applications for minor developments."

The Minister emphasised that this huge efficiency improvement in delivering planning approvals for a whole range of application types cannot be underestimated, projecting that up to 80% of all applications will be handled through an extended streamlined process, if implemented by all councils.

The Minister concluded by saying that:

"While the Planning Service is often criticised for poor results it is to be congratulated on this tremendous achievement as part of the ongoing short term reform programme. The benefits from this innovative scheme, including culture change both for Planning Service and the councils, along with improved business relationships, provides a solid platform for further developing process changes and structures as we move towards implementing planning reform."