The Northern Ireland Environment Minister, the DUP’s Edwin Poots, may be introducing a Planning Bill to the NI Assembly next week – with the intention to absorb Planning Service within the Department of the Environment before transferring planning powers to local councils.
And he may be seeking views “on proposals aimed at modernising and strengthening local democracy”.
But as he admits in his press release, the timetable for the proposed “transfer of Development Plan and Development Management powers to councils” has yet to be agreed by the NI Executive.
That will be because it’s all based on the 11 council model – which remains foundering on the semi-detached polit-bureau rocks.
And there’s a proposed default method for local council decision making – from the consultation document [pdf file]
The key elements of the default model will be:
• the operation of a committee-based system;
• the opportunity to devolve powers from the full council to a committee or committees;
• the establishment of a scrutiny committee, if powers are devolved from the full council to committees; and
• the establishment of a central policy committee.
And there’s a proposed “call-in” procedure to be used to review specific decisions by councils – “similar manner to the ‘petition of concern’ procedure in the Assembly”.
And a new “power of well-being”. Don’t ask…
Which, apart from the last point, makes it sound like the Assembly model being extended to local government. But that can’t be right since the DUP leader, and NI First Minister, Peter Robinson, has said that the DUP regard the current Assembly arrangements as “a transitional phase to a more normal form of democracy”.
And what ever happened to the Single Waste Authority?
Did Edwin forget to “bring a paper back to the Executive on this issue”?
Or did the NI Executive fail that particular test too…