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Planning

Part of Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:00 pm on 11th May 2009.

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Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 1:00 pm, 11th May 2009

Subject to the Executive’s approval, I hope that PPS 18 will be published before the summer recess. We are working to publish draft PPS 16 as quickly as possible.

I am reluctant to suggest a timetable because those issues are not always in my hands. As the Member well knows, under the checks and balances of our system of Government — which, incidentally, the Alliance Party was partly instrumental in setting up — those policies are subject to, and must have, the approval of a number of parties. I cannot comment on how quickly or slowly other parties will operate on the matter. All that I can say is that my desire is to put in place a suite of appropriate policies that offer guidance and certainty to planning applicants and to those who must make decisions on those applications.

I said that greater weight will be attached to economic considerations. I believe that, in the past, I have made my view clear that when it comes to material considerations, sometimes economic considerations have not been given as much weight as I would have liked. I must say that when I look at the correspondence and the number of meetings about planning applications that other Members seek with me, I get the impression that a large number of them, through the course of their work, believe that much greater weight should be given to either the preservation or creation of jobs in their constituencies.

Therefore, it is partly in response to my gut feeling, partly in response to representations that other Members have made on the issue, and partly in response to people in the development industry that I want to clarify the weight that I believe must be given to economic considerations. Greater weight means simply that: in circumstances where there is a balance of arguments and where it is appropriate, greater weight must be given to economic considerations.

I must make it clear to the Member that that does not mean that a bad planning application will be accepted simply because someone attaches a paragraph to it that states that it is of economic significance. Moreover, it does not mean that we can override policies to which we are already committed.