“This would give councils the final decision on the bulk of individual applications.”

The Northern Ireland Executive’s Environment minister, Arlene Foster, has published what are described as “the emerging findings” of her review of the review of public administration previous recommendations on local government. You can read the actual document here [pdf file]. According to the statement “the proposals outlined in the paper mark the beginning, and not the end, of a process of reform and modernisation for local government.” So what was the earlier review then? ANYhoo.. as for specific proposals, perhaps the area to focus on for now is planning.

26. Rather than all of the development plan functions being transferred to local government, as proposed under the RPA, it is proposed that there should be a separation between the Area Plan and Local Plan functions, with central and local government taking forward different roles. Under the current model, the Department would be responsible for taking forward a number of strategic Area Plans covering groupings of district councils, while the new councils would be given powers to take forward more detailed Local Plans to reflect local needs. Just as Area Plans are required to be in conformity with the Regional Development Strategy, it is envisaged that the local Plans would be required to be in conformity with the Area Plans.

Guidelines will be required to clarify the respective remits of Area and Local Plans. The Department intends to bring forward proposals to reform the development plan process and these proposals will redefine the nature of Area and Local Plans and provide further detail on the roles of central and local government and the relationship between them in the development plan process. (see Annex A).

27. It is also proposed to transfer the bulk of development control functions, excluding regionally significant development proposals, to local government. This would give councils the final decision on the bulk of individual applications. However, the Minister would retain responsibility for more strategic applications which have relevance to Northern Ireland as a whole or to substantial parts of Northern Ireland. The enforcement function would also be the responsibility of local government.

28. It is, however, important to note the key points, set out in Annex A, about the number of possible models currently being considered for the transfer of local plans/subject plans, development control and enforcement. Considerable further work is needed to establish the relative costs and benefits of these models. However, for the purpose of illustration, the costs of transfer set out in paragraphs 43 and 44 assume a fully decentralised model.

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  • barnshee

    Have they forgotten WHY power was removed from councils?
    The return of the brown envelope brigade (did they ever really go away)

  • Nevin

    I suspect they didn’t, barnshee. I hear of ‘fees’ in the range £5-10k than can ‘expedite’ applications. Such fees would be small beer in the overall cost.

  • The Raven

    Could I ask, Gentlemen, to whom these “fees” are paid?

    Would it be to Planning? Which is of course, a DOE service, and not related to Council control?

    Is it to the Councillors?
    Perhaps it’s to Building Control?
    The bin-men?

    Or Harry, the mild mannered Janitor….?
    Could be!

    I was trawling through the BBC website – handiest one, I have to say, no other reason – looking for convicted local government officers or Councillors who were caught and punished for accepting fees. Can’t seem to find many…but I stand to be corrected, and certainly if there is evidence of wide-scale acceptance of bungs at local government level, I look forward to reading it.

    I’m still running a book on the outcome being Model 11b of the RPA, or a retained 26 Councils with enhancements in some powers, and withdrawal of others.

  • Comrade Stalin

    If you pay a bribe to a councillor, you’ve been taken for a ride. The councillors have pretty much no say. They can complain vociferously to the planning service about their decision, but there’s nothing that requires them to change their mind.

    Mind you, there’s nothing at all my local council in Newtownabbey seems to do except put the rates up every year while making me have to continuously phone them to do their job and sweep my street properly.

  • veritas

    oh dear what a shite decision.in the interest of public accountability this is a retrograde step,the old saying about “he who pays the piper calls the tune”is a real fear.

  • IJP

    So the Councils would get the blame – but not the power to do anything about it (as they’d be restricted by the Area Plan over which they have no control).

    Gee thanks.

  • barnshee

    “Could I ask, Gentlemen, to whom these “fees” are paid?

    Would it be to Planning? Which is of course, a DOE service, and not related to Council control”

    Er planning was moved to central control in Belfast some years ago I wonder why.

    Some obviously untrue and scurrilous rumours about developpers in North West abound

  • The Raven

    Barnshee wrote: “Er planning was moved to central control in Belfast some years ago I wonder why.”

    I have no idea. Was your implication not that Councillors and Council staff were benefitting from bungs? I am just ensuring that you know that planning has not been within Council’s remit for many years.

    If developers in the North West are paying bungs it’s to Planning Central, not the Councillors or Council staff. What would be the point, as Comrade Stalin has noted?

    Ergo, why NOT move the planning back to Councils? The inference from the top two posts in this thread are that no-one can be trusted with planning. Why give a toss, therefore, if it goes back to Councils?

    So who WOULD you trust?

  • barnshee

    “I have no idea. Was your implication not that Councillors and Council staff were benefitting from bungs? I am just ensuring that you know that planning has not been within Council’s remit for many years”

    1 I am wholly aware that final decisions on planning have not been ” within Council’s remit for many years” ( they do however have planning committees who “recommend “or otherwise). Final Planning approval was REMOVED from Councils.
    Why?? well I leave you to speculate but the reason for removal is unlikely to be because they operated an efficient fair incorruptible process.

    2 Planning was removed from local office to central office control.
    Why?? well again as I repeat myself I leave you to speculate butagain the reason for removal is unlikely to be because they operated an efficient fair incorruptible process.

    3 Proof? well always going to be hard to come by (hard cash is hard to trace) and as both giver and receiver have committed an offence, its in everbody`s interest to keep stum.

    3 Tighter scrutiny of developers records and accounts might help but I fear it will always be with us in some form or other.

  • The Raven

    “Have they forgotten WHY power was removed from councils? The return of the brown envelope brigade (did they ever really go away)”

    So just to repeat MYSELF…who WOULD you trust? Your posts obviously suggest that there is trusting elected representatives…and at the same time there is no trusting unelected officials.

    So?

  • Nevin

    The owl and the pussycats are all at sea.

  • barnshee

    “So just to repeat MYSELF…who WOULD you trust?”

    Well none of them my (purely personal view) is that the politicans whether “real” or wannabe councillors are an unprincipled self serving shower of scum bent on self agrandissment.

    Civil servants have also been caught taking a bunge in the past and will continue to do so– only the stupid ones get caught. What needs to happen is for swinging penalties to be imposed on those actually caught (20 years no remission style of thing)– It will never happen “its only money”

  • The Raven

    Swinging penalties? Perhaps you are advocating a death sentence?

    Even I think this might be just a little severe…

    But I think we get your swingeing drift.