Key stakeholders, policymakers and interested parties gathered today to consider issues around how the new planning system will affect local councils.
The Policy Forum for Northern Ireland, organising the event, is a division of Westminster Forum Projects.
Commenting on how this would affect local councils, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “This morning’s conference will help us to think about the impact of planning on people, places, communities, investment and the economy. My vision for planning in local council areas is simple. I want to create a better environment and a stronger economy. My aim is to create a planning system that works to achieve this. A system that is fast, fair and fit for purpose.
“I want a system that delivers for business, with timely decisions that bring investments and jobs, but not at the expense of our environment, planet or people.
“I want a system for local councils that realises that the environment and the economy should not, and cannot, be at loggerheads. The system will fully recognise that a vibrant, sustainable environment can be a driver of prosperity and job creation. ”
The benefits of the transfer of planning to local councils, which takes place on 1 April 2015, will be wide-ranging: from improved service delivery to gaining greater community buy-in; from supporting the creation of a shared society to delivering sustainable development.
Minister Durkan concluded: “From my personal experience as a councillor I understand the importance of having locally elected members who can speak for our local communities. As Minister with responsibility for local government, I value the hard work and commitment that it takes to be a good representative for local people.
“Under the new system, local councillors will have a real opportunity to transform the look and feel of their own areas and create places that reflect the local culture and environment.
“It will bring planning back to where it belongs, in the local community, making it more locally accountable. It will also bring the North into line with the other jurisdictions in these islands.”