Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard and Economy Minister Simon Hamilton have welcomed a decision by the High Court today in relation the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP).
The suggested remedy, put forward by the departments jointly, has been accepted by Justice Treacy. The proposed remedy focused on the only contested element of the Plan which related to the bulky goods restriction at Sprucefield regional shopping centre.
Today’s ruling confirms that the remaining policies within BMAP continue to apply and the Plan remains in force, however the bulky goods restriction relating to Sprucefield should not be taken into account in informing planning decisions.
Commenting on today’s decision Minister Hazzard said:
“I welcome the decision of the Court today which has ended a long period of uncertainty for Belfast Metropolitan area. I have previously confirmed to Executive colleagues that I intend to bring forward a review of retailing policy in relation to Sprucefield and will seek their agreement in due course.
“Today, the Judge has accepted the joint remedy and confirmed the statutory planning framework for the region which will guide development for the future. This will give certainty to local communities and to those who wish to invest in the north, reinforcing that we are a region open to and ready to do business.”
Minister Hamilton said: “I welcome today’s decision which has endorsed the agreement reached between the Departments and approved by the Northern Ireland Executive. It will provide certainty and clarity for councils, developers and investors. My number one priority is to bring more and better jobs to Northern Ireland. I believe the decision by the Court today will further strengthen our message that Northern Ireland is a great place to invest and do business.”
Notes to editors:
1. BMAP is a Development Plan prepared by the Department of the Environment under Part III of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 (the 1991 Order). The Plan covers the City Council areas of Belfast and Lisburn and the former Borough Council area of Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Newtownabbey and North Down. In total it covers a territory of approximately 960 square kilometers and a population of 671,559 (Northern Ireland Census 2011) which represents approximately 37% of the total population of Northern Ireland. The Plan sets out in spatial terms the planning policies which will guide decisions on the development of land within the entire Plan Area. It has therefore critical importance to many areas of community and economic life in Northern Ireland and provides certainty for investors, developers and communities as to how and where development in Northern Ireland will take place.
2. In September 2014, the former DETI Minister took a judicial review challenge against the former DoE Minister in relation to his decision to authorise the adoption of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015.
3. In March 2016 the High Court gave judgement in relation to the former Environment Minister’s decision to adopt Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) without obtaining the prior agreement of the Executive. The Court found that this decision was unlawful but did not quash the Plan and allowed additional time for parties to discuss a potential remedy.
4. The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and the Department for the Economy (DfE) recognise the importance of having BMAP in place and the certainty that it provides for Councils, investors, developers and the public in providing a framework for planning decisions.
5. They therefore engaged in discussions to address the unlawful adoption of the Plan but also sought a way forward which would secure the retention of the Plan. A joint submission on remedy on behalf of DFI and DFE was submitted to the Court in August 2016.