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Planning Bill to be scrapped – 23 October 2013

Northern Ireland’s environment minister has scrapped proposals to overhaul planning arrangements in opposition to changes introduced by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

It followed legal advice on steps sought by the two largest parties which are designed to make the system more business friendly and limit the right of people to challenge planning decisions in court.

They would potentially have given the first and deputy first ministers the power to establish special economic zones and limited the grounds on which objectors could secure judicial reviews of those major development decisions.

Environment Minister Mark Durkan said: “This is not only an attempt to grab existing planning powers from my department, but also an attempt to dis-empower future local government.”

The Planning Bill has been making its way through the Stormont Assembly. But Mr Durkan has received legal advice that amendments sought by OFMDFM were in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.