After attending a meeting between South Belfast residents and officials from the Planning Service, Allan Leonard said: “When I asked John Cummings, the Division Planning Manager for Belfast, whether he believed he has sufficient powers to enforce breaches of planning legislation, he replied that he did. However, on behalf of Deramore Residents Group, people at the meeting raised a series of examples that demonstrated that Planning Service is not effectively using its powers of enforcement.
“While the Planning Service do have powers to take action against illegal building, there is ample evidence that not enough is done to stop those who flout the law. This has fed a public perception that developers can act with impunity to build whatever they like.
“It is in the best interests of all concerned that the Planning Service exerts its full authority. Its negative image and lack of respect from some developers makes a mockery of residents, politicians and others who sincerely want a fair planning service.
“If the Planning Service cannot address its bad perception through real action, then giving greater powers to an independent Ombudsman is the only logical alternative.”