Local Development Plans – Time to Get Involved
Keen to undo years of plan production by the unaccountable DoE, many of the Councils across Northern Ireland have progressed apace with plan production and are seeking views from the public as to how they want their areas to be developed.
Plan making under the Councils promises to be a more democratic process than the DoE way and should be one in which the public can influence local plans in a way that they have not been able to do previously.
The key message is therefore to get involved now in your local plan. Anyone with an interest in land, such as farmers, developers, investors or others, should learn how the local plan process may affect their interests and seek to either protect or promote their land.
What are LDPs
The LDP is a statement of the respective Council’s policies at strategic and local level for the development of land within their District for the next 15 years. The Plan will take on board policy set out by the Executive and in Regional Planning policies and guidance to express this at a District Council level within social, economic and environmental objectives for the District.
The LDP comprises two elements, the Plan Strategy and the Local Policies Plan. The Plan Strategy sets out the broad strategic direction which the Council wishes the District to take in terms of development and growth. The Strategy does not deal with site specific matters, rather it provides the framework for the more detailed Local Policies Plan, which will translate the strategic level policies in the Plan Strategy into a “zoning plan” with policies and proposals for the specific future use of land.
When published in its final form, the LDP will be the main decision making tool used by Councils in the assessment of planning applications for their District. New legislation published last year gave the plans “primacy”, which means that they will be the first port of call in making land use planning decisions. If it is not in the plan, then it has less chance of being approved, which brings into sharp focus the need to ensure that your development interests are represented in the plan.
Process and Timeframes
For most Councils the process in preparing their LDP will take around 4-5 years. Following a period of information gathering the Council’s first main task will be the publication of the Preferred Options Paper (POP), which will set out key planning issues along with a suggested preferred option for the strategic development of the District. This is normally subject to a 12 week public consultation period and it would be important to be respond to the consultation.
The Council will use the feedback from the POP to help inform the production of its Plan Strategy which will take around 6 months to produce in draft form. The Draft Plan Strategy will then be subject of public consultation and the representations that the Council receive will be tested at an Examination in Public or EiP (a form of Public Inquiry) before being approved by the Department for Infrastructure and formally adopted. This part of the process from Draft Plan Strategy to Adopted Strategy is likely to take around a year to complete.
The Plan Strategy will in turn inform the Local Policies Plan which again undergoes a process of public consultation and an EiP which could take a further year and a half to complete.
What do you need to do?
The plan process includes key milestones at which there is an opportunity to make a representation. The first opportunity to make your opinion known to the Council is at the publication of the POP to which the Council will seek a response from the public.
If you have lands within a settlement that you wish to change or protect the existing zoning or if you have lands outside limits that you wish to be considered as development land, seek professional support to help make a case for your lands and a response to the POP. Representations received at the POP stage will be used by Councils in the formulation of the Draft Plan Strategy which will be the next key milestone in the process.
Once the POP process has been completed the respective Councils will set about preparing their Draft Plan Strategies. This is the stage to make a more detailed and robust case for growth in settlements that you are interested in. In particular, this is the time to make arguments for housing growth and allocation. Representations can be made to the Council on such growth prior to the production of the Draft Plan Strategy and then again once the draft is published, which is when the Council will be in receipt of what are more likely to be objections to their draft polices.
You should be building the case for the inclusion of your lands from the POP and certainly the Plan Strategy Stage. Winning an argument with regards to allocation of housing to the settlement that you are interested in will dramatically increase the chances of your lands being considered for development. Involvement in the process now in terms of the POP and the Plan Strategy is the key immediate action to take.
However, that is not the end of the process because you will then need to start building a more detailed site specific case for your particular site for consideration by the Council when producing their Local Policies Plan. Like the Plan Strategy stage, the Council will receive representations on specific sites right up to the production of the draft Local Policies Plan but be prepared to make an objection to the draft document when it is published if they have not taken your request for inclusion of your lands on board. Again, as with the Plan Strategy, the EiP, which is conducted by the Planning Appeals Commission, will be the forum to air objections.
Strategic Planning has considerable experience in representing clients at Local Plans and we would be delighted to speak to you about your land interests and advise how these might be taken forward through the LDP process.
Richard Bowman is Director of Planning at Holywood based consultancy Strategic Planning.
028 9042 5222
(This article is from the November edition of Business Eye magazine)« Back to News