Ulster Unionist Party Environment spokesperson, Tom Elliott MLA, has welcomed the indication given by the Environment Minister that the current review of planning policy will result in the consolidation of all 21 existing Planning Policy Statements into a single “Strategic Planning Policy Statement” as presenting a significant opportunity to rectify many of the problems currently facing the planning system in Northern Ireland.
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative said;
"The single ‘Strategic Planning Policy Statement’ (SPPS) will reflect a new approach to the preparation of regional planning policy. It will be much more strategic in focus, simpler and shorter.
Over recent years the many problems created by having disparate Planning Policy Statements have been all too clear. At present there are 21 Planning Statements ranging from tourist promotion to renewable energy.
"Following rumours that the Department was significantly reforming existing Statements, I asked the Minister not only to provide clarity on the speculation but also the level of staffing which he had set aside to carry out the work.
"In response the Minister informed me that the Department was undertaking a ‘comprehensive consolidation and review of planning policy which will reconfigure existing provisions within a single policy document.’
"I believe this is a welcome development for at long last the Minister appears to be realising some of the flaws within the existing Statements. This wide ranging review has also come at an important juncture as, under the reform of Local Government, Councils will shortly assume key planning powers.
"It is important, however, that if a single Planning Statement is created, it should be flexible enough to be used in everyday practice by local councillors but also certain enough to ensure it is not open to a variety of interpretations.
"I would now urge the Minister to set aside the appropriate level of staffing, with a breadth of knowledge deserving of such important reform, to ensure that this statement is drafted in as informed a manner as possible."