Alliance Party Vice Chair and Castlereagh Councillor Michael Long has slammed a decision by the Management Board to refuse to review a planning application at Willowbank Crescent in Castlereagh, and cited it as an example of “creeping marginalization” of locally elected representatives and the general public in the entire planning system. He has also asked the Board to clarify its referral criteria which he currently described as being ‘vague to the point of being useless.’
The Planning Service Management Board has refused to reassess an application for 10 apartments by saying that it fails to meet their criteria for referral. This is despite the fact that there were 31 objections to the scheme as well as 2 petitions of objection to the scheme
and unanimous opposition from Councillors in Castlereagh and the guidelines for referral include developments which have ‘generated strong
Cllr Long said, “This increasing tendency of the Management Board to refuse to reassess applications at the request of Councils comes after recent restrictions were placed on Councillors calling for site visits or asking for more than one deferral of an application and quite clearly illustrates the creeping marginalization of democracy, public representatives and the public from the planning system.
“While it gets more and more difficult for residents to challenge
planning decisions, developers still have the option of appealing refusals
to the Planning Appeals Commission. It appears that the system is becoming
increasingly loaded towards development.
“In this particular case, this significant change to the local character of the Willowbank area should have qualified for referral given the huge local opposition. Its failure shows just the current referral guidelines are vague to the point of being useless.
“At my request the Council have now written to express our disappointment at the failure to accept the referral and asked that the Management Board clarify their position regarding referrals. The public are already increasingly disillusioned by the Planning system and this clarification is needed to provide better transparent and openness.”