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Committee Amendments Strengthen Planning Bill

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 09 March 2011

Reference: ENV 11/10/11

The Assembly Committee for the Environment successfully introduced changes to the Planning Bill at the Assembly yesterday. The Bill sets out new procedures for dealing with planning applications, appeals and fines for breaches of planning law.

Speaking after the Debate, Committee Chairperson, Cathal Boylan MLA said: “The Committee was keen to make a number of changes to strengthen the Bill. We are pleased the Assembly supported these changes.

“The Committee recommended that fines and penalties for breaches of planning law should be increased. The Committee was of the view that fines were no longer high enough and that developers could easily absorb them into the costs of a project. By raising the level of fines the Committee believes it brings the legislation up to date and people will take planning laws more seriously.

“With councils set to take over awarding planning consent, the Committee felt it was important that they were protected from undue costs as a result of statutory bodies failing to respond to planning consultations on time. Thanks to the Committee’s amendment if a Council finds that it has to withdraw planning consent as a result of a late submission to a consultation, the body providing the late submission will be responsible for any costs associated with the revoked planning consent.

“In addition to the Department now having to consider well-being as a key element of its planning duties, climate change will also now be at the heart of Council planning. Councils are required to regularly review the make-up of their district – what are its physical features, where are people living, how is the area generating money. The amendment put forward by the Committee will now mean that Councils will also have to consider the impact of climate change on their district. The Committee felt this was very important for Councils to look at this at an early stage and before they consider individual planning applications.”

The Committee also recommended a number of amendments to the Bill that were adopted by the Department for the Environment and incorporated into the Bill, such as the addition of a new clause to the Bill which will allow the Planning Appeals Commission to fine people who submit appeals that are purely time wasting .

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