Publication of Northern Ireland Planning Statistics: 2017/18 Annual Statistical Bulletin

Date published: 21 June 2018

Planning statistics for 2017/18 are now available. These data provide an overall view of planning activity. Alongside this there is a summary of council performance across the three statutory targets for major development applications, local development applications and enforcement cases as laid out in the Local Government (Performance Indicators and Standards) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015.

Publication of Travel Survey for Northern Ireland 2012-2014 headline report

The publication is available on the Department for Infrastructure website at:

The publication is available on the Department for Infrastructure website at:

Key points

The key points from the Northern Ireland Planning Statistics 2017/18 Annual Statistical Bulletin are:

  • There were 12,933 planning applications received during 2017/18, a decrease of nearly 1% over the previous financial year. This comprised 12,770 local, 161 major and 2 regionally significant development applications.
  • In total, 12,314 planning applications were decided, a decrease of 5% over the previous year. This is less than half the peak level of 30,161 decisions recorded in 2005/06 before the economic downturn.  The number of planning applications decided has remained fairly stable since 2012/13.
  • The average processing time for major applications was just over 50 weeks across all councils; down significantly from the 69 weeks reported for the previous year but still well over the statutory processing time target of 30 weeks.  Only one council, Mid and East Antrim, met the processing time target during 2017/18. Processing times decreased from 2016/17 in seven of the eleven councils. 
  • The number of local planning applications received was 12,770, a decrease of 1% on last year.  Four of the eleven councils received more local applications compared to the previous year with Belfast City (1,788), Newry, Mourne and Down (1,562) and Mid Ulster (1,397) receiving most. 
  • Across councils it took on average just over 15 weeks to process local applications to decision or withdrawal, just missing the target but an improvement of 1 week on the previous year. The shortest average processing time for local applications was less than 10 weeks in Mid and East Antrim, whilst the longest was nearly 22 weeks in Lisburn and Castlereagh. In all, five of the 11 councils achieved the 15 week target.
  • The number of enforcement cases opened was 3,304, a decrease of over 3% on the same period last year. Across the councils Belfast City (427), Ards and North Down (410) and Antrim and Newtownabbey (408) opened the largest number of cases during the year.   
  • Nearly four in every five (77%) enforcement cases were concluded within 39 weeks, 7 percentage points above the statutory 70% target but a decline of almost 4 percentage points on 2016/17 performance.  Ten of the eleven councils met the target with a high of 94% concluded within 39 weeks in Antrim and Newtownabbey. Newry, Mourne and Down concluded 60% of cases within the target time.
  • The approval rate for all planning applications was 94%, similar to the rate a year earlier.  Approval rates varied across councils in 2017/18 from highs of 98% in Mid Ulster and 97% in Derry City and Strabane to a low of 88% in Newry, Mourne and Down.
  • The 58 renewable energy applications received was by far the lowest annual figure since 2003/04, representing a 28% decrease in received applications compared with a year earlier. At the end of March 2018 there were 101 live renewable energy applications and nearly three fifths (58%) of these have been in the planning system for over a year.

Notes to editors: 

Background to Northern Ireland Planning Statistics 2017/18 Annual Statistical Bulletin.

1. This is the latest in a regular series of statistical bulletins related to Development Management (Planning) functions. The Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 sets out the legislative framework for development management and provides that, from 1 April 2015, councils now largely have responsibility for this planning function. This is the third annual statistical bulletin to report on activity and performance since the transfer of planning functions occurred. This statistical bulletin reports on activity and performance for 2017/18 (1 April 2017 – 31 March 2018) with comparisons provided for the previous year.

2. A new classification hierarchy for planning applications came into effect on 1st April 2014 in advance of the transfer of planning functions to local government from 1st April 2015. The development categories are – major and local development applications, processed by councils, and regionally significant development applications processed within the Department. Note that the ‘major development’ category is based on a completely different definition to the previous ‘major’ category so figures relating to this category should not be compared with those from earlier bulletins (i.e. pre-2014/15).

3. There are three legislative performance targets covered in the report related to the processing of local development decisions within an average of 15 weeks; major development decisions within an average of 30 weeks; and processing 70% of enforcement cases to target conclusion within 39 weeks.

4. The final records of all applications from 1 April 2017 – 31 March 2018 were transferred in May 2018 from a live database and inspected for consistency in coding before figures were prepared for publication. These annual figures are now regarded as ‘final’ and will not be subject to further scheduled revision.

Quarterly data are provided in more detailed accompanying Excel tables together with comparable data from the previous financial year, where possible.

The quarterly figures for the 2017/18 year are now final and will not be subject to further scheduled revision.

5. Electronic copies of the Bulletin, associated Excel tables and summary infographic (included within publication) are available free of charge from:

Official Statistics

6. This is an Official Statistics publication and therefore follows the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.  You can find further information about the Code of Practice at:

7. Further Information

For further information please contact:

Analysis, Statistics and Research Branch
Department for Infrastructure
Clarence Court
10-18 Adelaide Street

8. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office on 028 9054 0007 or email: Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.

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