Patsy McGlone 25th February 2008
Written Answer from the Minister for the Environment
Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of the Environment to outline (i) her timetable for reform of the Planning Service, including a target date for its completion; and (ii) the finances that it will be allocated up to 2010-11.
Mrs A Foster: In November 2007 I announced that I intended to bring forward proposals for reform of the planning system in Northern Ireland. Although the question refers to the Planning Service, it is important to note that the reform programme will go well beyond the Agency and will relate to the entire planning system.
(i) In relation to the timetable, I would advise that reform of the planning system will be a continuous process over the short, medium and long term and will therefore not have a definitive target completion date. However, there are a number of key milestones and targets towards which we are working, not least of which are our PSA commitments.
Short term reform measures currently underway are focusing on helping to tackle workload pressures and producing early improvements in efficiency and effectiveness in the handling of planning applications. A number of the measures are being taken forward as pilots, with projects running until March 2008, at which point they will be reviewed and consideration will be given to whether to roll them out more widely across Planning Service Divisions.
For the medium to longer term, the reform programme will focus on more comprehensive changes to the planning system. These phases of the work will involve research and policy development, public and stakeholder engagement, formal consultation on the emerging proposals, and legislative change. The changes that do not require legislative provision will be rolled out between now and March 2011. For those requiring legislative change, our PSA commitment is to bring forward the relevant legislation by March 2011.
A detailed timetable has been prepared for phase 1 of the work, which runs until summer 2008 and will culminate in the publication of reform proposals for public consultation.
(ii) In addition to the work that is being done within existing resources to re-engineer the planning process to make it more efficient and effective, the budget recently approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly included an allocation to the reform programme over the next 3 years of - £2,150,000 in 2008/09, £150,000 in 2009/10 and £250,000 in 2010/11.