‘No undue delays’ in planning

Councillor Gordon Lyons.  INLT 12-681-CON
Councillor Gordon Lyons. INLT 12-681-CON

The transfer of planning powers to the new super council will “fundametally transform the local area”, a councillor has claimed.

Next Wednesday (April 1) Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will be responsible for delivering planning services across the area, resulting in changes to how planning operates.

Chairman of the planning committee, Cllr Gordon Lyons, said the transfer of powers from the Department of the Environment presented “an exciting opportunity” for the council.

He added: “As part of the shake-up, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will become the planning authority, responsible for drawing up our own local development plan and making the vast majority of planning decisions.’

Cllr Lyons claimed one of the key benefits of this new approach would be “to allow councillors, who know the local environment and local area, to make decisions about how Mid and East Antrim will grow and develop”. 

He added: “In considering planning applications, councillors will move away from their current advocacy/lobbyist role and become decision makers.”

In order to prepare councillors for their new role, the chairman pointed out that a new code of conduct has been put in place, which he said “clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities” of the elected members.

“The specific role of each councillor will depend if they are on the planning committee or not, and the guidance is very clear on what they should

and should not do,” Cllr Lyons added.

“We have been working hard over the past 10 months to make preparations for the smooth transfer of the planning powers.

“Any applications which are already in the planning system and have not been decided by March 31 will transfer to the new council for a decision.

“We aim to have arrangements in place so that there are no undue delays.

“For a significant number of planning applications, council planning officers will make the decisions, under the direction of the planning committee, in line with the existing policies.

“Some of the more complex or contentious applications will be considered by the planning committee.

“As part of this process, there will be opportunities for public speaking at committee by councillors, MPs/MLAs, applicants and objectors.

“Full information will be available on the council’s new website.”

MEA Council’s planning department will be based in County Hall, Ballymena. The contact number will be 0300 200 7830, with the email address planning@midandeastantrim.gov.uk

From April 1, all planning application forms, including those for consents, will change and will be available to download from www.planningni.gov.uk