Planning Reform - Transfer of Planning

On 1 April 2015, the Department of the Environment handed over planning powers to the 11 new councils. Local councils are now responsible for drawing up local development plans, making the majority of planning decisions, and shaping how their area grows and develops in ways that respond to the needs of the communities they serve. 

This is an exciting time for planning and marks the most significant change to our planning system in over 30 years. Find out more about how these changes affect you and how the new planning system will work.

What powers does my Council have?

The councils’ new powers include:

  • Developing a local plan which will set out what the council area should look like and how land should be used and developed;
  • Making decisions on the majority of planning applications; and
  • Investigating alleged breaches of planning control and determining what enforcement action should be taken.

What is the Department be responsible for?

The Department will retain responsibility for deciding regionally significant and called-in applications. It will also set regional planning policy and legislation, provide oversight and guidance, and monitor the performance of councils, providing support where needed. 

Is anything else changing?

The Department is also introducing improvements which will make planning a speedier, simpler and more streamlined process. These improvements will make it easier for you to access and participate in the planning process as well as helping to deliver faster and more predictable decisions and stronger and more effective enforcement. 

How does the new system work?

Planning officers from the Department of the Environment have transferred to councils and are now council employees. They bring with them their knowledge, skills and experience and will help ensure that the transfer is a seamless process.

Planning applications will be categorised as local, major and regionally significant with councils responsible for determining all local and major applications. Each council will establish a planning committee to consider and decide these planning applications. However, not all applications will come before the planning committee for decision. The vast majority of applications will be delegated to the council’s experienced planners to decide. The applications that are likely to come before the committee for decision may include large developments, contentious applications and those that receive a number of objections. As well as speeding up processing times and keeping down costs, delegating applications in this way will free councillors to deal with complex or contentious cases more promptly. 

The types of applications that will normally be delegated to planners to decide and those that will normally come before the planning committee for decision will be published in the council’s Scheme of Delegation, which will be available for the public to view.

What benefits will I see?

One of the biggest benefits from these reforms is putting the decision making in the hands of those with local knowledge. Local councillors know the local environment, local needs and views of local people and so are best placed to make the decisions on how their area should grow and develop. Councils can now approve planning choices suited to local communities and will have greater freedom to respond to local need. They can also ensure that the needs of local businesses are taken into account which can help create jobs and growth in the local economy. 

The new local development plan process requires councils to consult with local communities. This gives businesses, communities, and local groups and organisations a real opportunity to have a say in shaping the look and feel of their local area. 

Where do I submit my planning application after 1 April 2015?

Each new council area will have its own local planning office so you may find that your nearest planning office is much closer than before. These new offices will open before 1 April so before visiting or calling your local office.