Planning Policy

The Planning system has been reformed and restructured from a unitary system to a two-tier model of delivery. Amongst other functions the Department retains responsibility for regional Planning Policy. The SPPS is a statement of the Department's policy on important matters that should be addressed across Northern Ireland.

The Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS)

The Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) consolidates some twenty separate policy publications into one document, and sets out the Department’s policy on important planning matters that should be addressed across Northern Ireland. It also provides the core planning principles to underpin delivery of the two-tier planning system with the aim of furthering sustainable development. It sets the strategic direction for councils to bring forward detailed operational policies within their new Local Development Plans.

The SPPS has a statutory basis under Part 1 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 which requires the Department to formulate and co-ordinate policy for securing the orderly and consistent development of land and the planning of that development.

The SPPS should be read and applied as a whole. It does not seek to restate policy or guidance that is expressed elsewhere within other relevant government strategies or policies. Furthermore, the SPPS does not seek to identify all of the statutory obligations that have to be met in delivering the entire range of planning functions.

Development in the Countryside Call for Evidence (CfE); CfE Emerging Issues; and, Consultant’s Report

Following the publication of the SPPS, the Department issued a ‘Call for Evidence’ and also procured independent consultants to undertake research and provide an updated evidential context for regional planning policy on development in the countryside. This preparatory work and research helped inform Minister Mallon’s decision that the current policy approach, provided for by the SPPS, remains appropriate, robust, and fit-for-purpose for the two-tier planning system. For information only, copies of the Call for Evidence and Consultant’s report can be accessed here.

Control of Development in Airport Public Safety Zones

This document sets out the Department’s policy for controlling development within Public Safety Zones for the relevant runways at George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport. Future development plans will take account of and be consistent with this document.

Transitional Arrangements

To ensure that there is continuity in planning policy for taking planning decisions whilst councils bring forward operational policies tailored to local circumstances within new Local Development Plans, the following transitional arrangements shall apply.

Planning authorities will continue to apply retained Planning Policy together with the SPPS. Any relevant supplementary and best practice guidance will also continue to apply.

Where a council adopts its Plan Strategy, existing policy retained under the transitional arrangements shall cease to have effect in the district of that council and shall not be material from that date, whether the planning application has been received before or after that date.

Any conflict between the SPPS and any policy retained under the transitional arrangements must be resolved in the favour of the provisions of the SPPS. For example, where the SPPS introduces a change of policy direction and/or provides a policy clarification that would be in conflict with the retained policy the SPPS should be accorded greater weight in the assessment of individual planning applications. However, where the SPPS is silent or less prescriptive on a particular planning policy matter than retained policies this should not be judged to lessen the weight to be afforded to the retained policy.

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