MP highlights perils of planning delays

Planning delays in Northern Ireland are causing a major downturn in the province's economic growth, the MP for East Antrim warned this week.

Speaking at a House of Commons debate, Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party said that hold-ups in the planning system mean that the province is losing out on employment and investment.

"The planning service suffers from more delays than British Rail on a bad day," he argued. "Those bringing forward major schemes factor in at least two years for planning permission."

In response, Northern Ireland parliamentary under-secretary of state Angela Smith said that a major increase in planning applications and objections to area plans has increased pressure on the system. She added that planning reforms launched for consultation last week are intended to speed up the system.

The reforms include tackling delays, strengthening enforcement powers, boosting community involvement and promoting sustainable development.

Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland welcomed the emphasis on public involvement and sustainable development. Director John Woods said: "Environmental and social issues will no longer come a poor second to economic development." The consultation will run until 23 December.

The proposals can be viewed via www.PlanningResource.co.uk.


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