Publication of Northern Ireland Planning Statistics: First Quarter 2016/17 Statistical Bulletin

Date published: 29 September 2016

Provisional planning statistics for the first quarter of 2016/17 are now available.

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

These data provide an overall view of planning activity across the north of Ireland.  Alongside this there is a summary of council progress 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.

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

Key points

  • There were 3,438 planning applications received during April to June 2016 (Q1), an increase of 11.0% over the previous quarter and 8.6% on the same quarter in 2015/16.  This comprised 3,409 local development and 29 major development applications. No new Regionally Significant Developments applications were received in the first quarter.
  • During Q1, 3,490 planning applications were decided, up 8.0% over the quarter and a notable 72.8% on the previous year.   In Q4 2015/16 and continuing into Q1 2016/17, the number of decisions issued exceeded the number of applications being received. 
  • In Q1, the average processing time for major development applications across councils was 67.1 weeks, compared to 35.4 weeks in the same quarter in 2015/16.  This is over 37 weeks longer than the statutory processing time target of 30 weeks, although it is still a relatively early stage in the year. 
  • The number of local planning applications received during Q1 2016/17 was 3,409, the highest number of local planning applications received in any quarter since the transfer of planning authority in April 2015.  Across councils, Belfast City (471), Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (396) and Newry, Mourne and Down (378) received the highest number of local planning applications during the quarter. 
  • Across councils it took on average 18.0 weeks to process local applications to decision or withdrawal in Q1 2016/17, very similar to first quarter performance last year but three weeks longer than the statutory target.  The shortest average processing time was 9.8 weeks in Mid and East Antrim whilst the longest was 27.2 weeks in Newry, Mourne and Down. Notably, however, this council processed four times as many applications in Q1 compared to the same time last year.  Five of the 11 councils were within the 15 week target in the first quarter for 2016/17.
  • The number of enforcement cases opened during Q1 2016/17 was 943, an increase of over one quarter (25.2%) compared to the same period last year.  This is the highest number of first quarter enforcement cases opened in any year since 2010/11 when 1,028 cases were opened. Belfast City (113), Ards and North Down (110) and Antrim and Newtownabbey (107) opened the largest number of enforcement cases in Q1.
  • In Q1 2016/17, 81.3% of enforcement cases across all councils were concluded within 39 weeks, over 11 percentage points above the statutory target and an improvement of just over 7 percentage points on the equivalent quarter last year. Ten of the eleven councils were on track to meet the statutory enforcement case target during this first quarter.
  • The approval rate for all planning applications for Q1 2016/17 was 94.5%, the same as the rate for Q1 2015/16.  First quarter approval rates varied across councils from 92.6% to 96.3%.   
  • The number of renewable energy applications received in Q1 2016/17 was the lowest first quarter figure in over ten years (since 2004/05).  Of the 27 applications received in Q1, nearly half were for single wind turbines.  The average processing time for renewable energy applications was 54.4 weeks in Q1, up from 47.9 weeks when compared to the same period last year.

Notes to editors: 

  1. This is the latest in a regular series of statistical bulletins related to Development Management (Planning) functions in the north of Ireland. 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 statistical bulletin reports on activity and performance for the first quarter of 2016/17 (1st April 2016 to 30th June 2016).
  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 (ie 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 1st April 2016 to 30th June 2016 were transferred in August 2016 from a live database and inspected for consistency in coding before figures were prepared for publication. These figures are regarded as ‘provisional’ and will therefore be subject to further scheduled revisions as further updates are made to records in the live database environment.
  5. Quarterly data are provided in more detailed accompanying Excel tables together with comparable data from the previous financial year, where possible. Electronic copies of the Bulletin, associated Excel tables and summary infographic are available free of charge from:
  1. Media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office on 028 9054 0007. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned
  2. Official Statistics

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:

  1. Further Information

For further information please contact:

Analysis, Statistics and Research Branch
Department for Infrastructure
Clarence Court
10-18 Adelaide Street
Belfast BT2 8GB

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