Statutory consultees play an essential role in the planning process as Planning Authorities may not have the necessary expertise in‑house to assess the technical and specialist issues of an application's merits. The consultation process is also an important element of an open, transparent and democratic planning system.
Section 229(3) of the Planning NI Act 2011 provides the statutory basis on which a consultee must respond, e.g. they are required to give a substantive response within a prescribed time period or in a period as is agreed in writing between the consultee and the council or, as the case may be, the Department. The statutory period for response is 21 days.
The Department has been actively working with statutory consultees through a cross governmental Planning Forum. The Planning Forum was established in December 2019, as a result of a recommendation from a review conducted into the role of statutory consultees in the planning process. This review was particularly focused on improving consultee processes for major and economically important planning applications. A copy of the paper detailing the outcomes of that review is available via the link below.
- Discussion paper examining the role of statutory consultees in the planning process in Northern Ireland (Sept 2019)
The Planning Forum is made up of officials from both central and local government who work collaboratively towards the achievement of a number of key objectives which are outlined in the Terms of Reference.
A planned programme of work has been ongoing since early 2020 to improve processes around statutory consultation. This includes, amongst a number of measures, the statistical monitoring and reporting of statutory consultation responses. Annual and quarterly reports are available below which provide details of the performance including the number of consultations and requests for advice made to the statutory consultees.
The information provided in these reports is taken directly from the NI Planning Portal. Data around the consultation process is complex and continues to be developed to ensure it is robust. As a consequence, there may be minor variations in the figures contained between the reports when compared to those held by the statutory consultees themselves.
- NI Statutory Planning Consultations - Q3 Report 2020/21