Account Executive Jack Gibson looks back on another successful Eye On the Hill Event – this time on Local Development Planning.
We’re now a little over a week on from our latest seminar on Local Development Plans (LDP) in Northern Ireland, delivered in association with Turley.
We at Chambré PA have taken a close interest in these important documents. This seminar is the second we’ve run looking at them – with more planned for the future!
The LDP process is extremely complex. So, it was great that we had Turley’s Emma Walker, who’s been involved in plan-making both here and in England, to guide us through it at the start of the first session.
Emma was followed by two expert speakers from England: John Pugh-Smith (39 Essex Chambers) and Richard Laming (Turley). A common theme running through both talks was the importance of making communities a part of the plan making.
Richard stressed the importance of Councils getting buy-in from stakeholders during the plan making process. With proper communication, he suggested, stakeholders could play a serious role in ensuring planning decisions were made based on sound evidence.
John, meanwhile, focused on the importance of ensuring legal soundness. An interesting point, which he returned to on a few occasions, was that investing in IT infrastructure was a good way in which Councils could meet their obligation to consult effectively with communities.
After the planners and planning lawyers had their say, we heard from four stakeholders. None of our 4 panellists were planning experts – but, in a way, that made what they had to say even more important.
The system we have is complex, but it’s vital that industry and business engages with it. By putting the four sector reps on a panel, we hoped to allow the council officers and councillors in attendance to hear their concerns, and understand where they needed to focus their efforts.
Finally, we heard from two council planners – Chris Boomer of Mid Ulster District Council and Dermot O’Kane of Belfast City Council. The two outlined the progress their respective councils had made towards their LDPs, and outlined the challenges their respective Councils faced.
Chris Boomer spoke about meeting the needs of the 43% of Mid Ulster residents with low-or-no qualifications. And Dermot O’Kane spoke about the challenge of meeting housing need and utilising listed buildings.
As a non-planner and a perennial optimist, I thought this was the most interesting session of the lot. Local Development Planning is all about specific local needs being reflected in local policy.
In these two talks, that’s exactly what we saw. Nearly two years on from the transfer of planning policy, this was two council planning officers demonstrating how they were getting to grips with the needs of their respective districts.
It’s heartening to know that the principle of local plan making is being engaged with so well by at least Belfast and Mid-Ulster councils. Perhaps now, as citizens and stakeholders, we need to ask ourselves if we’re engaging well enough with the process in turn?