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New IT planning system to go live in December

17 November 2022

Derry City and Strabane District Council is in the process of implementing a new IT system to replace the existing NI Planning Portal, that will be shared by the Department for Infrastructure and other local authorities in Northern Ireland, with the exception of Mid Ulster. In order to implement the new system the current one will be offline from 3pm on Friday 18 to Monday 21 November.

The Northern Ireland Planning Portal (NIPP) currently provides the public website interface which customers and the public use to access information and comment on planning applications. The system also provides the Council’s Planning service team with back office software to facilitate and process planning applications, appeals and enforcement cases as well as regional property certificates.

The new portal system is the largest joint IT project between central and local government to date in Northern Ireland and will see benefits for all users as Councils seek to drive planning online and into the digital age.

Among the key benefits of the new system when it goes live on 05 December will be the ability to submit applications online, the linking of front and back-office systems to allow for streamlining administration processes and ultimately improving efficiency.

As part of the preparations for the introduction of the new system on 05 December, the current system will be closing down over the weekend of 18-20 November to facilitate data extraction. It will be available again on Monday 21 November but with limitations in place to read only access for most users. The public are advised to expect some delays to the system at this time.

The Councils and Department for Infrastructure will continue to accept new planning applications during the transition period but copies of the submitted forms and plans will not be made available online until the new Planning Portal is launched on 05 December. All applications will continue to be checked by staff online in preparation of being uploaded and will be advertised, neighbour notified and consultations issued once the new Portal is up and running.

The current Public Access website will continue to be available during the transition period from 21 November onwards so that citizens can view applications but it will no longer accept online comments or track applications. Customers are encouraged to submit their comments to Planning Officials via email to [email protected] or by post to Planning Service, Derry City and Strabane District Council, 98 Strand Road, Derry. BT48 7NN.

Public Access users are advised that their details will not be transferred, their account will close and the details deleted when the website is taken offline. Those who wish to use the tracking or comment features on the new Planning Portal or to submit an application online must create a new user account when the new system launches.

Chairman of the Planning Committee Cllr John Boyle welcoming the introduction of the new Portal said he was confident the new system will improve the validation process and workflows to better manage workloads and will create a better user experience, making it easier to use and more accessible for the public to engage with the planning process.

He said: “The new Planning Portal will provide customers with a much more user friendly and accessible system.  Once the new system is up and running, customers will be able to submit planning applications online, view, comment on and track live planning applications online and submit Tree Observation Order requests online. Under the new system, they will also be able to report breaches of planning orders and enforcement complaints online and submit requests for regional property certificates. An enhanced public register where customers can search for and view historical applications across Northern Ireland (excluding Mid Ulster) will also be provided as part of the new system.”

Cllr Boyle urged the public to be patient during the transition period and to expect some issues with the system as staff and users adapt to the new Portal.

“We are encouraging the public to work with us and to be patient as we navigate our way through this new system. There will be some delays and issues as we get used to the new system but we are committed to do all we can to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he added.

The current system is coming to the end of its contract at the end of 2022 and a joint award of contract has been agreed to replace this system with a new regional Planning IT system that will be shared by the 10 participating local Councils, and the Department for Infrastructure to deal with regionally significant or call-in applications. Mid Ulster Council are not involved in this project and has procured its own standalone system.

In terms of functionality of the system a few areas have been put back to post implementation and that in view of some of the operational issues experienced to date, contingency measures for continued IT support for planning authorities would be required beyond 31 December 2022.

Belfast City Council will oversee the contract management of the new IT system and an SLA between Belfast and all 10 planning authorities has been set up. A local project-working group comprising of staff from across various directorates of council has been set up to manage the migration of the new Planning IT system and to ensure a smooth transition for customers and the public.

For more information visit - https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/articles/new-planning-portal