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Part of Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:15 pm on 11th May 2009.

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Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 1:15 pm, 11th May 2009

The irony is that most of those planning reform proposals have been well circulated in the public domain. They first came to the Assembly and to the Committee for the Environment in the form of emerging proposals. Thereafter, given the lack of opposition to those proposals, I increased their status to planning reform proposals and circulated them among Ministers. At that stage, Ministers made no adverse comments. I had hoped to publish the proposals in January and that the consultation would have been completed by now.

Good sound proposals will be attractive to those who wish to develop and to those who are affected by development. A range of people, from environmental groups to developers, welcomed the emerging proposals. One implication of delay is that people will be disappointed that the Assembly is not doing the work that it should be doing. However, more importantly, the reform proposals refer to the devolution of the planning function to councils. Given that we will establish the new councils in 2011, we are working to a strict timetable. As I said in the Assembly a couple of weeks ago, I question whether we will be able to devolve planning powers to those councils within the agreed timetable. Those councils might begin their work without significant devolved functions.