Planning powers have been transferred from Craigavon to Newry as part of a pilot scheme in preparation for next year’s huge shake-up in planning that will see councils and councillors making decisions on planning applications. From April next year planning powers will be transferred to local councils with councillors taking over from government officials as the decision makers on planning applications. However these powers are being transferred to the new Newry and Mourne and Down Council this month as part of a 7 month trial period called the Pathfinder Project. Planning staff previously based in Craigavon are being moved to offices in both Newry and Downpatrick and will work closely with councillors that were elected to the new super council earlier this year. Applicants will now be able to lodge planning applications at council offices in Monaghan Row and will no longer have to travel to Craigavon. Announcing that the project will be piloted in Newry Mourne and Down Council DOE Minister Mark 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. It 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 efficient and more responsive to the needs of their local businesses and community.” Presiding councillor of Newry Mourne and Down Council, Charlie Casey says he hopes the project and the forthcoming transfer of planning powers will help communications on planning matters. He said: “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 April 1 2015.” The transfer of planning powers to local councils is part of the Major Local Government Reform Project. From Aprils next year councils will have greater control over planning, parking, housing and economic development.
16th September 2014