The provisional quarterly figures, the first published since the transfer of planning powers to councils in Northern Ireland, show that the number of planning applications decided in Northern Ireland in the period April to June 2015 was 2,013. The figure is the lowest in 10 years and a decrease of more than a quarter compared to the same period in 2014 when 2,743 applications were decided (see infographic).
According to a statistical bulletin on the figures, the drop is the "sharpest quarterly decline in decisions issued in the series but was not driven by a similar reduction in applications received". The number of applications received was down by only five per cent over the same period, according to the statistics.
The figures show a longer-term downward trend in the number of decisions issued in Northern Ireland, apparent since the onset of the recession in 2006/07, but before the recent sharp drop there had been signs that this had been levelling out.
According to the statistics, Belfast City received the most (434) planning applications in the quarter to June 2015, followed by Newry, Mourne and Down (375), between them accounting for 25.4 per cent of all applications received across Northern Ireland. But the statistics show that they accounted for only 16.9 per cent of all decisions issued in Northern Ireland over the same period. Causeway Coast & Glens issued the most decisions (230) during the quarter to June, followed by Fermanagh & Omagh (225).
In April, after an interval of more than four decades, local authorities in Northern Ireland regained powers to determine planning applications as part of a local government reorganisation. The province’s 26 local authorities were condensed into 11 so-called "super councils" , each with its own planning team made up of staff transferred from Northern Ireland’s Department of the Environment.