Councillor interventions fuelling planning backlog

By Peter Winter

Reporter:

By Peter Winter

Email:

peter.winter@thechronicle.uk.com

Causeway Coast and Glens' planning backlog has been linked to high rate of councillor intervention in the assessment process.

The news comes with the release of figures showing planners were well wide of their 15 week target for processing ordinary applications and performed even worse in assessing 'major' development proposals.

A report accompanying the figures suggests a high number of interventions by individual councillors and legal action over decisions is placing staff under mounting pressure.

The vast majority of applications are assessed by professional planning officers without reference to the council's committee of elected representatives.

However, individual councillors can insist decisions are taken out of officers' hands and instead put to a vote by members – usually after an approach by either an applicant who is facing refusal or objectors unhappy that permission has been granted.

Council rules warn members they must have “sound, clear and logical planning reasons” for disputing the planners' verdict.

If not, the council could find itself defending decisions in Planning Appeals Commission or in the courts.

Figures obtained by The Chronicle showed that in the first three years since Northern Ireland's local authorities gained powers over planning, councillors here referred 130 cases to the committee.

*Read the latest figure fallout inside this week's Chronicle.

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