North Down Alliance Councillor Tony Hill has said new proposals from the Planning Service make a mockery of the Council’s role in planning.
Speaking after a meeting of the Council’s Planning Committee, the North Down Deputy Mayor stated: ‘The Planning Service itself has accepted that the planning process was working well in North Down. Yet now we have to operate a new system aimed at solving problems which do not exist here.
‘The changes make it harder for Councillors to visit sites and see planning issues for themselves, harder for residents and developers to get a fair say, and harder for smaller Councils such as ours to administer.
‘The fact is the Minister has gone straight over Councillors’ heads and presented us with a “fait accompli” which is entirely inappropriate for North Down, and for many other councils. The opportunity has existed for nearly a year to open up dialogue about this issue with Councillors, via the NI Local Government Association, yet the Minister has refused any
approaches. In this way, the Government has shown total contempt for the electorate, and for the people they elect.
‘Many Councillors are now questioning whether they have any real role in the planning process. We need urgent dialogue between Councillors and the Planning Service to define this role clearly and give the public faith that the people they chose to represent them have a say in the planning issues that affect them.’
NOTE TO EDITORS
The current Minister for Social Development in Northern Ireland is David Hanson MP (Lab, Delyn).