Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:15 am on 5th May 2020.

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Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party 11:15 am, 5th May 2020

I thank the Member for her question. She did ask about the total number of planning applications that are about to expire and I committed that officials would write to her. I do not know whether she has received that piece of correspondence but I can chase it when I go back upstairs.

Yes, planning permission has presented an ongoing difficulty and the Member is right that it requires primary legislation in Northern Ireland. As a Department, we thought that the Northern Ireland Executive might bring forward a COVID-19 Bill, as has happened in other cases, and we were keen to insert that piece of legislation in that. It does not seem as though that is going to happen, so I have asked officials to explore bringing forward primary legislation. The Member will understand that that takes time and it will not help those who are facing the imminent expiry of their planning permission. I have also said that I recognise that that is not ideal, but for those people the practical option facing them in the immediacy of their situation is either to renew, and that will cost a fee of one-quarter of the original fee, or to commence works. I urge that if people are going to commence works, they remain mindful of the case law so that any works that they can take are considered to be valid.