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Sirocco and Casement Park Proposals

Two highly significant planning applications have been submitted to Belfast City Council this week.  The St Francis Group developers, based in England, are proposing an ambitious development for East Belfast which will extend the city centre via a linking pedestrian and cycle bridge connecting the Sirocco site with the Waterfront complex.

In West Belfast the Ulster Council of the GAA has revised its planning proposal for Casement Park which will be assessed by the Department for Infrastructure in line with Minister Hazzard's announcement in January.

1 March 2017

Re-thinking NIMBYism

Over the course of the last 18 months Community Places and Rural Community Network have been working on a ‘Re-thinking NIMBYism’ project in three rural areas across the region.  Adopting a Public Conversations Project methodology, we explored issues surrounding the siting of renewable energy infrastructure in communities which have benefited from renewable energy and in others where there is considerable objection to such proposals.

Often the views of communities to renewable energy proposals are characterised as a form of “NIMBYism” (not in my back yard).  We believe this fails to reflect the very real connections people have with their environment.  The research explored a range of attitudes and views to major renewable proposals helping to deepen understanding of community concerns and to inform recommendations to improve community engagement.  The project drew on the work of Professor Patrick Devine Wright who has researched the social and psychological aspects of the siting of new energy infrastructure in communities across the UK.

The report of the project makes a series of recommendations relevant to planners, political representatives, the renewable industry and local communities and supports a shift towards a more discursive and participative form of planning practice with the aim of reducing conflict, inequalities of power and to inform practical decision-making.  

You can see a video outlining the work of the project and download the Project Report and Executive Summary.

For further information contact Louise O'Kane at Community Places (9023 9444) or Aidan Campbell at the Rural Community Network (8676 6670).  

12 January 2017

Public Inquiry for Proposed Gold Mining Plant

Minister for Infrastructure, Chris Hazzard, has announced his intention to hold a public inquiry into a proposal for a gold mining plant near Greencastle in Co Tyrone.  Pre-application community consultation has been undertaken but no planning application has yet been submitted.  Community Places has been providing advice to the Save Our Sperrins group which is opposing the proposed mining development.  The group’s grounds for objection include protecting the Sperrins as a community and tourism asset; the proposed use of cyanide during the gold mining process; and the visual and environmental impacts of the proposal.  

In acknowledging that the planning application will be complex and controversial, the Minister said: “I will ultimately be the final decision maker, but I would like the benefit of a public inquiry and report which has independently considered the views of stakeholders, including the local community, and has scrutinised the information provided by all interested parties”.   

13 December 2016

Revised National Standards for Community Engagement

The Scottish National Standards for Community Engagement have been revised to reflect recent changes in policy and legislation relating to community empowerment in Scotland.  The revised standards known as the ‘Magnificent Seven’ are good practice principles designed to support and inform the process of community engagement and to achieve more influential engagement in public services. The Standards are available at

13 October 2016

Minister Hazzard Announces Review of Planning Policies

Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard, has announced a review of planning policies on renewable energy and countryside development.

Specialist research and advice consultants will undertake the review which will look at the rapidly changing technologies and types of renewable energy development - including wind turbines and solar farms -  and recommend the best policy approach going forward. 

In announcing the review, the Minister said he wanted to continue to improve the planning system to make it effective and efficient and to make sure that it operates in the wider public interest.  He said:

“I am committed to ensuring that the SPPS delivers for local communities and the North as a whole and that the planning system addresses the present as well as the long-term future needs of our society.  There will be opportunities for stakeholder engagement and public consultation next year and I would encourage people to give their views.  Any future changes to the policy would be subject to public consultation.”

It is expected that the review will be completed in 2018. 

Further details and progress updates on the review will soon be be available at

29 September 2016