Planning committee gets update on Planning stats & targets
07 January 2021
Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee attending today’s virtual Reconvened Planning Committee meeting were provided with a report detailing statistics in relation to planning targets that were recently published by the Department for Infrastructure.
Members of the Committee were reminded that the classification hierarchy for planning applications came into effect on 1st April 2014 in advance of planning functions to local government from 1st April 2015. The development categories are Major and Local Development applications which are processed by Councils and Regionally Significant Development applications which are processed within the Department for Infrastructure.
Members heard how Council is measured by three current legislative performance targets that include local planning application decisions target of processing is within an average of 15 weeks, Major Development decisions within an average of 30 weeks and processing 70% of enforcement cases to target conclusion within 39 weeks.
The Head of Planning with the Council, Maura Fox in a detailed report to the committee, informed members that the number of planning applications received in Northern Ireland in this year, period April 2019 to March 2020 was 12,207, the lowest overall figure in the last number of years since 2013/2014. Of these, Derry City and Strabane District Council received 840, which is only 17 less than last year and that the approval rate in NI was 93.2%, and Derry Strabane had an average approval rate of 97.6% which compares to 97.2% the previous year.
She explained that the average processing time to decide Major planning applications across NI in this year is 52.8 weeks and during that period Derry City and Strabane District Council issued 11 Major applications, compared to 18 the previous year.
The Planning chief advised members that the Council’s Major processing target was 96.0 weeks compared to 154.2 weeks the previous year, which was a significant improvement. She said it was important to note that Derry and Strabane received the third highest number of new major applications in this year, 15 compared to six the previous year.
Members were also informed that the average processing time to decide Local applications across all Councils in this year was 14 weeks, below the 15 week DFI target. Derry City and Strabane District Council has performed well in the first quarters, 13.3 weeks in Quarter 1 and 13.8 weeks in Quarter 2, leaving a Year to Date performance of 14.0 weeks, well within the Local target. This compares to 14.1 weeks in the previous year, and reflects a slight improvement.
The Committee also heard that at a Northern Ireland level, the number of live applications greater than a year old at the end of March 2019 was 6,312 or 20% and how Derry City and Strabane District Council still has a substantial proportion of one year plus applications which was 118 or 26.2%. This compares to March 2019 which was 96 or 19.1%.
Across NI, in terms of enforcement cases, 81% of cases were concluded within 39 weeks. Derry City & Strabane District Council processed 78.1% of all cases within the 39 week target and therefore meeting the 70% plus target. Quarter 3 was particularly noteworthy with other quarters ranging from 75 to 78. This compares to a conclusion time the previous year of 53.6% which has been a significant improvement.
Summing up, Maura Fox said it had been a good year for the Council, meeting two of the three main DFI Stat targets. She said the Major application target remains a challenge like all Councils, however this year did see a significant improvement, one historic case can easily eschew other good performances due to the low overall numbers.
Another area of improvement was the Enforcement target which is noteworthy. A particular challenge remains, however in managing the one year plus caseload and will continue to be a focus for improvement with aspects which are within the control of the Council.
Chairperson of the Committee, Cllr Christopher Jackson acknowledged the important role of the planning department of Council and praised the work of officials in continuing to progress with the processing of applications despite the current limitations and challenges. He said while these were unique and challenging circumstances, every effort was being made to continue to make positive progress with all planning services. He reassured the public that Council acknowledges the importance of the service and remains committed to move forward with decisions and processes as best they can.