Planning needs major shake-up

TOWN planning in South Belfast is in need of a major shake-up, according to Alliance Councillor Geraldine Rice.

Cllr Rice said: “The South Belfast News has highlighted many problems, including apartments springing up only to remain half full, traffic congestion, the destruction of older buildings and plans to build houses and supermarkets in the Green Belt.

“Alliance favours balanced development that brings new investment, creates new jobs, makes prosperity, and builds new homes, while respecting both the environment and our built heritage.

“Our party is concerned at the lack of proper planning frameworks in most parts of Northern Ireland, and the particular absence of current Area Plans. Alliance is also deeply concerned at the destruction of many buildings of historic importance or architectural merit in South Belfast, and incursions into the Green Belt.”

Cllr Rice said Alliance had a strong planning policy, which it would implement in the next Assembly.

“Alliance will initiate a general review of Planning Policy Statements (PPSs). We will ensure that planning policies are consistent with both the economic and social needs of Northern Ireland, and the concerns of local communities.

“We will set targets for ‘brownfield development’ as part of Area Plans. To help in this respect, Alliance will lobby for the abolition of VAT on renovation, in order to encourage the use of existing buildings for development.

“Alliance will also support the creation of additional ‘Conservation Areas’, to protect the built environment in key areas of historical or architectural interest. We won’t support new major housing developments before the necessary infrastructure has been put in place. For example, sufficient consideration must be given to access to public transport.”

Cllr Rice said that Alliance planned to pass legislation to give District Councils the ability to initiate third-party appeals.

“While it may not be practical to give this power to individual residents, Alliance believes that it should be vested in local representatives through a weighted-majority vote on Councils,” Cllr Rice said.

“Legislation will also be updated to ensure that out-of-town retail developments, such as the unnecessary one proposed for Hydebank, are only permitted as part of an approved strategic plan. On the other hand, Alliance will amend planning regulations and procedures so that applications with clear economic development potential can have accelerated consideration.”

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