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News

£500,000 Bonus Payments to Planning Service Staff

The Belfast Telegraph has reported that nearly £500,000 in 'bonus payments' were made to Planning Service staff. The paper says the figures were obtained by it under a Freedom of Information request and comments that "they are particularly disturbing becuase some civil servants were paid huge bonuses despite a series of high-profile failures".

The paper also notes that the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee found the planning system "not fit for purpose" and that only one out of six Divisional Planning Offices - that based in Omagh - met all its targets for processing applications. According to the paper the Public Accounts Committee found that customer satisfaction levels with the Planning Service had deteriorated from 76% to 32% in the last decade.

Read more on the paper's website.

29 March 2010

Policy for Rathlin

Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, today announced that the Executive has introduced a policy for Rathlin Island. This comes as very welcome news to Rathlin Development and Community Association which has lobbied long and hard for a policy specific to the island.

The purpose of the policy is to develop a vibrant healthy island community and increase the involvement of islanders in the development of policies and projects which improve conditions for all of the people of the island while also protecting its environment. The policy has the strategic aims of:

  • enhancing community involvement;
  • improving the provision of public services for islanders;
  • advancing policies for a sustainable island community; and
  • conserving the Island's exceptional environmental heritage.

In announcing the policy, the Minister said: "It is only right that islanders receive access to public services that the rest of us often take for granted and the policy will seek to improve the conditions of all people on the island while also protecting its natural and cultural heritage".

2 March 2010

Securing Better Development in Your Area

In November 2009, the Department of the Environment released a consultation paper - Draft Addendum to Planning Policy Statement 7, Safeguarding the Character of Established Residential Areas. This paper proposes new policies that will apply in residential areas. It includes policies intended to protect the character of existing residential areas, to secure better new apartment developments and conversions and to encourage the use of permeable paving.

Community Places briefed the Assembly Environment Committee on 4 February 2010, setting out how we believe that the new policies could be improved to ensure better new apartment developments that provide a range of accommodation types. Members of the Environment Committee were very interested in these issues.

A workshop was held on 12 February 2010 and attended by groups from across the region to assist them in responding to this policy. Participants raised a number of issues about the negative impacts of recent developments in their areas and how the new policy could help address these problems.

Consultation closes on 5 March 2010 and anyone interested in securing a better policy for new development in residential areas should respond. If you would like any further information, please contact us (telephone 9023 9444) or email elaine@communityplaces.info.

19 February 2010

Community Allotment Seminars

Groundwork NI has organised a series of best practice seminars on community allotments. The structured seminars will offer those with an interest in community gardening projects the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the benefits, challenges and sustainability issues in developing and maintaining a community based gardening project.

The seminars will held in:

  • Belfast on Thursday, 11 March 2010, 9.15 am to 4.30 pm; Groundwork NI, 63-75 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast (incorporating a site visit to Walkway Community Gardens, East Belfast);
  • Derry/Londonderryon Tuesday, 23 March 2010, 9.15 am to 4.30pm; Liberty Consortium,The Playtrail, 15 Racecourse Road, Derry/Londonderry (incorporating a visit to on-site allotments); and
  • Omagh on Wednesday, 24 March 2010, 9.15 am to 4.30 pm; GK House, Lisanelly Heights, Omagh (incorporating a site visit to Mullaghmore and Castleview Community Association allotments).

There no charges for individuals or groups who wish to attend these information seminars, lunch and refreshments will be served and transportation will be provided for the allotment site visits.  Contact Aidan McLoone at Groundwork to book a place (telephone 9074 9494 or email aidanmcloone@groundworkni.co.uk).

12 February 2010

Consultation on Draft High Hedges Bill

The Department of the Environment is currently seeking views on the draft High Hedges Bill. Minister of the Environment, Edwin Poots MLA has brought forward the Bill as there is currently no legislation in the region which covers the height or maintenance of a hedge. Under the proposed legislation a person may complain to their local council that the height of a hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of their domestic property (after having taken reasonable steps to resolve the problem with the hedge owner).

A hedge would have to meet the following criteria before a complaint could be made – it must: 

  • be formed wholly or predominantly by evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs;
  • consist of a line of two or more trees or shrubs;
  • measure more than two metres from ground level (measured on the hedge owner’s side);
  • act as a barrier to light or access;
  • affect residential property; and
  • be growing on land owned by someone other than the person making the complaint.

 For further information on the consultation please click here. The consultation runs until 1 March 2010. 

29 January 2010

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