Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has launched a consultation on shorter, simpler planning policy for the North.
The Minister has announced a 12-week public consultation on the single Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS), which consolidates over twenty separate planning policy statements into one. These numerous planning policy statements which exist at present, provide the policy on issues such as building in the countryside, tourism, transport, telecommunications and housing.
The SPPS signals a new approach to the preparation of regional planning policy and outlines the reformed, two tier planning system as a result of local government reform. It covers issues such as the purpose of planning; new overarching core planning principles, the role of Development Plans and Development Management; sustainable development, community engagement in planning.
With regard to fracking, SPSS puts in black and white, for the first time, as policy, that there should be a presumption against the exploitation of fracking until the Department is satisfied that there is sufficient and robust evidence on all environmental impacts.
A new strategic policy on Town Centres and Retailing is also being proposed. Its aim is to support and sustain vibrant town centres across Northern Ireland by adopting a town centre first approach for the location of future retail and other town centre uses.
Last month the Minister vowed to speed up planning and make it simpler. His statement to the Assembly today launching this consultation, is product of that.
Mark H Durkan said: “SPPS sets out a new planning policy framework that delivers for business, with timely decisions that encourage investment and facilitate employment whilst protecting our environment, planet and people. It provides clarity and certainty for all users of the reformed planning system. I pledged last month to speed up planning. SPPS is a key building block in achieving that pledge.”
“This is an exciting time for planning. I encourage everyone with an interest to contribute their views to this important consultation through our digital on line interactive portal. By working together, we can shape planning policy to ensure an efficient and fit for purpose planning system which delivers for all. My vision is for a better environment and a stronger economy. SPPS will help achieve that.”
The SPPS is expected to be published in final form by end of 2014 ahead of the transfer of planning powers to councils on 1 April 2015.
The Department of the Environment is piloting an interactive online portal to gather consultation responses. This contemporary approach will make it easier for members of the public to submit their views.
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