Publication of Northern Ireland Planning Statistics Third Quarter 2016/17

Date published: 16 March 2017

Provisional planning statistics for the third quarter of 2016/17 are now available. These data provide an overall view of planning activity across the north of Ireland.

DRD statistics publication

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

The key points from the Northern Ireland Planning Statistics Third Quarter 2016/17 Bulletin are:

  • There were 3,209 planning applications received during October to December 2016 (Q3), an increase of 5% over both the previous quarter and the same period in 2015/16.This comprised 3,164 local, 44 major and 1 regionally significant development application.
  • During Q3, 2,874 planning applications were decided, this was down by 14% over the latest quarter but by a lesser 4% on the previous year.
  • The average processing time for major applications during the first nine months of the year was 70 weeks across all councils; up significantly from the 42 weeks reported for the equivalent nine month period in the previous year. This is currently forty weeks longer than the statutory processing time target of 30 weeks.
  • The number of local planning applications received during Q3 2016/17 was 3,164, an increase of over 4% on the same period last year. Across councils, Belfast City (412) and Newry, Mourne and Down (371) received the highest number of local planning applications during Q3.
  • Across councils it took on average over 16 weeks to process local applications to decision or withdrawal during the first nine months of 2016, an improvement of 3 weeks on the same period last year (19 weeks). The shortest average processing time for local applications was 9 weeks in Mid and East Antrim, whilst the longest was 23 weeks in Newry, Mourne and Down, although this was still an improvement of just over 9 weeks on the same period last year. Six of the 11 councils were within the 15 week target at the end of December 2016.
  • The number of enforcement cases opened during Q3 2016/17 was 742, an increase of 13% on the same period last year.This is the highest number of enforcement cases opened in any third quarter since the start of the reported series (Q3 2009/10).Across the councils, Newry, Mourne and Down (126) opened the largest number of enforcement cases in Q3 followed by Belfast City (85).
  • During April to December 2016, just over four in every five (81%) enforcement cases were concluded within 39 weeks, which was over 11 percentage points above the statutory target and an improvement of 4 percentage points on the equivalent period last year.Ten of the eleven councils are on track to meet the target with highs of 95% concluded within 39 weeks in Antrim and Newtownabbey and 89% in Causeway Coast and Glens.
  • The approval rate for all planning applications for the quarter was 93%, a little lower than the rate a year earlier. Third quarter approval rates varied across councils from a high of 99% in Ards and North Down to a low of 80% in Newry, Mourne and Down.
  • The 21 renewable energy applications received was by far the lowest Q3 figure since 2003/04 and the first time that single wind turbines, with only 5, did not represent the majority of such applications.At the end of December 2016 there were 198 live renewable energy applications, around 72% of these have been in the planning system for over a year.

Notes to editors: 

Background to Northern Ireland Planning Statistics Third Quarterly 2016/17 Statistical Bulletin.

  1. This is the latest in a regular quarterly 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 third quarter of 2016/17 (1st October 2016 – 31st December 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 (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 1st October 2016 – 31st December 2016 were transferred in February 2017 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. Finalised annual figures for 2016/17 will be released at the end of June 2017.
  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:

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:

Further Information

For further information please contact:

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

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

Follow the Department on Twitter @deptinfra​​​.


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