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Environment Minister Faces Legal Challenge over Newry Out of Town Development

Traders in Newry are pursuing legal action over the granting of planning permission for a mixed use scheme on the outskirts of Newry. The proposal includes 70 industrial and business units, a supermarket, 14 homes, a coffee shop, car parking and general landscaping.

The Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade is calling for the planning decision to be quashed saying it will damage city centre investment particularly the extension to the Quays Shopping centre.

When making his decision Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, said he was satisfied the existing city centre retail offering was strong enough to compete with the new supermarket. However traders argue that the Department acted irrationally in the weight it gave to any economic benefits.  Further grounds of challenge include failure to comply with the Habitats Directive and the potential effects of pollution to Newry River.

The legal action will proceed to a full three day hearing in May 2015.

27 January 2015

Shaping Community Planning - Draft Statutory Guidance

The Department of the Environment has issued draft Statutory Guidance on Community Planning for consultation. The Guidance sets out roles and responsibilities for all those involved in Community Planning and how the Community Planning process should be developed and implemented.

The consultation document is available on the Department's website and the consultation period ends on 9 March 2015.  Community Places will be preparing its own response to the draft Guidance.  If you would like further information, please contact Louise O'Kane (telephone 9023 9444). 

12 January 2015

Planning Permission for Casement Park Quashed

Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents’ Association’s Judicial Review into the granting of planning permission for the redevelopment of Casement Park stadium has been successful.  In Belfast High Court today, Mr Justice Horner quashed the planning permission granted in December 2013.

We welcome the Court’s decision – it follows Mr Justice Horner’s judgement earlier in the week that the planning decision-making process was unlawful and fundamentally flawed.  This is an unprecedented victory for residents living in the vicinity of the existing stadium whom we helped through the Judicial Review process. 

Mr Justice Horner identified failures in the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed plan to redevelop the stadium and also found that the effect of bigger crowds on the surrounding roads network had not been properly examined.  Police concerns about safety issues in relation to a capacity crowd of 38,000 had not – it was heard – been relayed to the Environment Minister in his assessment of the application. 

Minister Durkan said:

“My Department acknowledges today’s court decision.  The Judge found that in reaching my decision on this planning application there were errors in how aspects were processed thus rendering the decision unlawful.  This is disappointing.  I will now carefully consider the full judgement and outcome of today’s decision”

We cannot stress enough how this case shows the need for our free, independent Planning Advice Service which helps disadvantaged communities and people to access, understand and effectively participate in the planning process.  Our front line service is particularly important when disadvantaged communities are met with large-scale, complex, technical planning proposals that will potentially impact and alter the fabric and function of their neighbourhoods.

Happy Christmas to Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents’ Association – a long hard fight well won.

18 December 2014

Casement Decision Unlawful

Community Places welcomes the High Court decision made earlier today that the planning process which led to the granting of planning permission for the redevelopment of Casement Park was unlawful.  Colm Bradley, our Director, said:

“We gave professional planning advice  to the Residents’ Association (MORA) and the residents of both the immediate area and the wider west Belfast area from the outset.  This ensured that their voices were heard and their views represented during both the planning application process and this judicial review.  The dedication and resilience of the members of the Association has been remarkable throughout their long campaign.

This case highlights the great need there is for our free, independent Planning Advice Service which helps disadvantaged communities and people to access, understand and effectively participate in the planning process.  Our front line Service is particularly important when disadvantaged communities are met with large-scale, complex, technical planning proposals that will potentially impact and alter the fabric and function of their neighbourhoods.

This decision of the court  is a victory for MORA and the residents of greater west Belfast as well as community groups across the region in their endeavours to exercise their right to meaningful consultation and participation in the planning process. “

15 December 2014

Partnership Panel Holds First Meeting

The new Partnership Panel for Northern Ireland held its first meeting on 2 December 2014. 

The Panel - made up of Executive Ministers, councillors from the 11 new councils and NILGA - has been established as part of the programme of Reform of Local Government.  The Panel aims to improve co-ordination between Government departments and councils and help deliver better outcomes for local communities. 

Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, who chairs the Panel said: “This is an important forum where key decision makers from central and local government will come together to develop joined-up solutions and improve the delivery of local services. Through joint policy development and better operational collaboration, it will help us tackle the issues that really matter to people”.

The meeting also discussed the current position of the Reform programme, work planning and budget issues.

3 December 2014

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