An independent review has recommended that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its procedures for processing planning applications.

The review was carried out by former Scottish Government Chief Planner, Jim Mackinnon after he was called in by the Council to examine all aspects of its planning service and suggest areas for improvement.

Newry council will overhaul it's planning service after recommendations. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Following a week of intense investigation and research the report said, “there exists much good work to build on", but it also set out a number of recommendations to improve the planning service starting with the significant backlog of decisions.   

Plans will be put in place to simplify the current process and implement streamlining activities in respect to validation, statutory consultations and site visits. All cases will be allocated a case officer within 24 hours of validation and additional Planning Committee meetings scheduled.  

Further recommendations include: a programme of activity to change the current culture; the abolition of the Briefing Panel; introduction of speaking rights for Applicants, Agents and Objectors; capacity building for elected members; upgrading IT infrastructure; and agree timeline and publication date for the Council’s Local Area Plan.    

Chairman of the Council’s Planning Committee, Cllr Jarlath Tinnelly said, “The Council invited the review because it recognised there are areas that it needed to improve on. The Council will now seek to put the recommendations into practice as quickly as possible.”

Cllr Tinnelly added, "The Council has listened to the very real concerns of local people and, acting on these, agreed a series of wide-ranging improvements.”

Council Chairperson, Cllr Mickey Ruane added, “Planning plays a huge role in achieving the sustainable economic growth that is key to the future success of Newry, Mourne and Down and its people. The Council is determined to provide a quality, transparent Planning service.” 


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