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Newry chosen as pathfinder project to transfer of planning services

September 15, 2014

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has announced a joint project between the Department of the Environment (DoE) and Newry Mourne and Down Council, preparing for transfer of planning powers.

It will see Newry people having planners on their doorstep for the first time.

At present DoE Planning for Newry, Mourne and Down operates from Rathkeltair House, Downpatrick and Marlborough House, Craigavon.

From Monday 29 September 2014, 41 experienced Planners from DoE area planning team will relocate to council sites in Downpatrick and Newry where they will work alongside future council colleagues while ensuring a normal planning service is maintained for the area covered by the new council.

Planning functions will then transfer from central government to local government on 1 April 2015.

The project aims to explore in a practical way how planning might best work within a council operating environment after 1st April 2015. The DoE and Newry Mourne and Down Council hope the lessons learned during the project will support the roll out of planning to other councils which also have to be ready to assume responsibility for planning before it is handed over.

The DoE are keen to assure the public that, under the new arrangements, there will be no change to the way planning applications are determined and the service will continue as normal with applicants still able to lodge, pay for and seek advice about planning applications as they do at the moment, albeit from new locations.

Applicants will be able to lodge their planning applications at the Council Offices in the Downshire Civic Centre, Ardglass Road, Downpatrick or at the Council Offices in Monaghan Row, Newry.

Welcoming the development Mark H Durkan said: “This project will help shape how councils will deliver planning, bringing it closer to the public in the new Newry Mourne and Down Council area post April 2015.

“lt is also a significant and tangible step forward in the Reform of Local Government programme. All 11 new councils need to be ready to assume their new responsibilities when planning functions are formally transferred to them next April.

“The Reform of Local Government will ultimately deliver local councils which are more effective, more efficient and more responsive to the needs of their local business and community.”

Presiding Councillor of Newry, Mourne and Down Council Charlie Casey said: “The Newry Mourne and Down Council is delighted to have been chosen as the pathfinder project to transfer planning services from central government to Council resulting in greater local accessibility for everyone.

“We hope this new means of service delivery will transform the nature of interaction between the public and planning service on all planning matters. This pathfinder project will inform the way for the regional transfer of planning services from 1 April 2015″.

The new planning powers for councils post April 2015 will mean councils will be the planning authorities, moving away from their current advocacy/lobbyist role on behalf of developers/objectors to become the decision makers in the planning process. According to the DoE, the move represents a major opportunity for the new councils to place shape their local areas, proactively influencing investment, tourism, development and regeneration, addressing local requirements and focusing on local opportunities and issues.

Members of the public can telephone planning staff as they do now using the NI Direct number 0300 200 7830 or 028 91513101.

Further information about the transfer of planning in general can be found at http://www.doeni.gov.uk/index/localgovernment.

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