Publication of the eagerly awaited draft Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) for NI
The single Strategic Planning Policy Statement for NI (draft) was launched by the Northern Ireland Environment Minister Mark H Durkan and issued for public consultation on 4 February 2014, with a 12 week consultation period ending on 29 April 2014.
In essence the SPPS replaces 20 PPSs and consolidates these into one single planning policy document, and reduces, in the Department's words, 'over 800 pages of policy down to less than 100 pages'. It will eventually replace all previously published planning policy and will be in place in time for the transfer of planning functions to the newly elected eleven 'super councils' by April 2015.
There are three key features of a more strategic nature within the SPPS which are worth highlighting: establishment of a purpose of planning; introduction of eight core planning principles which will underpin the new two tier system of planning governance and delivery post April 2015; and establishment of a 'town centres first' approach with regard to out-of-town retail applications:
- The first of these – a purpose for planning – sets out comprehensively for the first time (and in one place) that the planning system is there to secure the 'orderly and consistent development of land with the objective of furthering sustainable development and improving well-being.' It goes on to explain that this will require the planning system to positively and proactively facilitate development which contributes to a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable Northern Ireland.'
- The second key feature, an explanation of the eight core planning principles which will underpin the new two tier system of planning from April 2015 includes for example the principles of furthering sustainable development, creating and enhancing shared space, delivering spatial planning and observing a plan-led system. Many of these core principles are new and will be seen as a positive step forward for the planning system.
- Thirdly the SPPS sets out a new and important strategic policy relating to town centres and retailing. This town centres first approach will seek to secure the use of town centres for the location of future retail and other main town centre uses. Town centre health checks are to be prepared by councils under this proposed policy.
Of a more detailed nature there are 16 subject planning policies which are consolidated and refreshed within the SPPS.
Over the Spring and Summer of 2013, the Royal Town Planning Institute in Northern Ireland (RTPI NI) convened two Summits with a range of stakeholders, supported by follow-up statements, to discuss the principles of a Single Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) for Northern Ireland.
The Summit was set up with the endorsement of the former Environment Minister, with a commitment to report to the Minister and provide constructive feedback on the development of the single strategic planning policy document and other planning policy and practice issues to the Minister and his Department. A Report of discussions held with stakeholders can be found here.
SPPS DoE Stakeholder Events
The Royal Town Planning Institute Northern Ireland (RTPI NI) was invited by the Department of the Environment, Planning Policy Division (DOE PPD) to independently facilitate a series of informal stakeholder discussion sessions associated with the intended introduction of a new single Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland (SPPS). Five pre-draft stakeholder meetings took place during the week commencing 30th September 2013. The stakeholder meetings included representatives from a range of groups and individuals including. A copy of the report prepared by RTPI NI for DOE PPD can be found here.