‘Our new control over planning can improve developer experience’

DUP Councillor Gary Middleton.
DUP Councillor Gary Middleton.

DUP Councillor Gary Middleton says he hopes the transfer of enhanced planning powers to the new Derry City and Strabane District Council will result in speedier and more predictable outcomes for developers and citizens.

The local councillor expressed the hope in advance of the first ever meeting of the new Council’s Shadow Planning Committee this afternoon (Wednesday, July 9).

Following an initial ‘shadow’ period the new Council will adopt a full range of new powers on April 1, 2015.

The local Planning Committee will eventually have full control over local development plan functions and development control and enforcement.

Mr Middleton said planning was something the DUP has always taken a particular interest in and pointed out it was something that was particularly pressing in the old Rural, and new Faughan ward.

“This is probably the biggest change under the new Council system and as a party we know there is a keen interest from architects and developers, that the process is speeded up,” said Mr Middleton.

“For us the new planning power for the Council will allow us to change the speed of delivery, particularly in the rural area,” he said.

Mr Middleton said the sense he and his party colleagues have had over the past number of years was that developers have become disengaged.

“I think there is an opportunity now to change that,” he said. “Their frustrations at the moment are centred on the speed of decisions, applications and the unpredictability of the outcomes, at times.”

The devolution of planning functions to local government will mark the biggest shake-up in the planning system in many years. Londonderry has previously been to the forefront in spearheading planning reform.
A joint venture from the Planning Service and the City Council in Londonderry in 2008 - the Streamlined Consultation pilot - reduced the time taken to process straightforward planning applications to just 21 days.

The scheme was one of a range of initiatives announced by Environment Minister Arlene Foster in November 2007, as part of the reform of the Planning System.

The new Shadow Planning Committee will today consider its terms of reference, a draft workplan, a draft planning capacity building programme, the response to the consultation on planning reform and studies prepared for the new Derry City and Strabane District Local Development Plan.

It will also be addressed by Phil Williams, Chief Planner at Cardiff City Council and the Chair of the Cardiff Planning Committee, Councillor Michael Michael.