‘Just half of planning applications responded to on time’ – McNulty

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Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty has called on the Department of Infrastructure to allocate more resources to respond to planning application consultations. 

McNulty recently met with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and sought clarification on the long delays in dealing with planning applications by Transport NI / Roads Service.



Speaking to Newry Times, McNulty explained, “I am constantly helping applicants with planning applications and the delays in responding to those planning applications by statutory agencies is the major contributing factor in delaying planning decisions being made. 

“I raised these concerns with the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Infrastructure, who has provided me with some detail on the number of applications being dealt with.

“The Southern Division, which includes most of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and all of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is the worst performing in terms of response times. Just over half of all applications received in the first six months of this year were responded to on time. The target time for consultees to respond within is twenty-one days.



He continued, “In the period from April – September this year the Department were consulted 1791 times and only 924 of those applications were consulted on within the target time of 21 days. 

“That’s only 51% of time, whereas the Western Division dealt with 68%, Eastern 78% and the Northern Division 88%. Staff are working as fast and as hard as they can, but the problem is there simply aren’t enough staff.

“If you compare like with like, the applications in rural divisions such as the Southern Division are much more complex and even the number of housing developments are greater so this actually further worsens the issue.



“The last Stormont Executive borrowed £700million for a Voluntary Exit Scheme and this allowed many experienced staff from across the civil service to retire early. As staff exited the organisation, so did experience and knowledge, but to add to the problem, as these were redundancies were completed the work hours, experience and expertise have not been replaced, and many gaps are now starting to appear. 

“This I believe is why we are experiencing the delay in responding to planning applications, the number of staff dealing with applications has dropped but the number of applications in the system is starting to rise.

The local MLA added, “Delays in the planning system are causing concern and frustration with applicants, but it is also costing jobs within the construction industry and thwarting economic activity and growth. This needs to be reviewed and addressed. I have written to the Divisional Roads Manager seeking further information and clarity on this important issue.”

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