Planning Service – must provide a service
Sinn Féin Environmental Spokesperson, North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay has said that 'Executive and this Assembly have a responsibility to ensure that the Planning Service does as its name suggests - provide a service'.
Speaking at Stormont today Mr McKay said:
"This Executive and this Assembly have a responsibility to ensure that the Planning Service does as its name suggests - provide a service. Having to wait over 2 years to have a planning application for a house processed is not what I would call a good service.
"Let us not beat about the bush; this is a planning service in crisis, which has resorted to downgrading customer service in an effort to reduce an overbearing workload. The result being that applicants are no longer entitled to site meetings and in some instances office meetings to try and overturn a Planning Service decision.
"Planning Service needs overhauled. We believe that it must make its decisions more transparent, understandable and more accountable. We do not need a planning bureaucracy where the opinion of local people and elected representatives are discarded.
"A review of planning policy must take account of environmental concerns and must also take account of the need to protect our rural communities and our rural services.
Protecting the environment must be a core aim and objective of any comprehensive rural planning policy.
"Sinn Féin fully supports measures that deal effectively with sewerage from one-off housing. We want to encourage the environmental foot-print of houses to be as small as possible, to that end we wish to see geo-thermal heating systems, together with solar and wind energy used to the maximum effect. Planning applications for one-off rural housing that incorporate such systems should be encouraged.
"Sinn Féin believes that a fundamental change in the planning process is needed."
He added that while currently planning is granted to an individual for a piece of land regardless of ownership, this permission rests with the site, not the individual that Sinn Féin believe that when permission is granted it should be to an individual, under specific criteria; that they will be the only person who can take the development forward, throughout the build process, followed by an occupancy agreement.