A Call for Evidence is open for public comment as the Department for Communities is currently in the process of developing a new housing strategy. This is an important opportunity for stakeholders to provide insights into housing supply issues in Northern Ireland but to also contribute to wider issues such as infrastructure and climate change. The consultation period is reaching its last two weeks for responses to be submitted, so all interested parties need to make their views known by 16 July 2021. This is an important opportunity to help shape the future of this important sector.

Background

Housing is a policy area devolved to the NI Executive and the importance of addressing housing was acknowledged in the New Decade, New Approach agreement (2020).

This Call for Evidence is the first formal stage in the process of developing a Housing Supply Strategy and will include a series of virtual events (link). The intention of the Department is to have a draft Strategy for presentation to Ministers by the end of March 2022 but a further public consultation will take place on the draft Strategy later in 2021.

Key areas

The Call for Evidence document (link) considers housing as a whole system and looks at the issues impacting on supply. The key areas are as follows:

  • Supporting People, Shaping Places and Building Communities

  • Land and Property

  • Planning

  • Finance

  • Infrastructure

  • Climate change/ net zero

  • Innovation

  • Skills

In terms of planning, three key questions are asked:

  • Are there changes to planning legislation, policies, processes or procedures that could transform housing supply for the better?

  • Are there planning practices adopted in other UK or European jurisdictions that you believe would transform supply if adopted here?

  • Is land banking hindering housing supply here?

Developer contributions, pre-application discussions and time limits for approval are often areas of contention so the opportunity to respond with constructive suggestions is vital to improving the planning system and in turn increasing sustainable housing in NI.

In terms of infrastructure the consultation recognises that new development is reportedly constrained in over 100 towns and villages where wastewater treatment works are nearing, or at, capacity and that pressure on the existing roads network is a constraint to housing supply. Mitigating the effects of climate change is also at the forefront of minds in the transition to low carbon homes.

Each Council area has different but similar needs and Councils in their role as planning authorities are responsible for bringing forward Local Development Plans (“LDPs”) for their areas, tailored to local circumstances including housing in settlements and development in the countryside. It is proposed that the strategy will cover approximately a 15-year timeframe which is comparable to LDPs.

LDPs will be subject to a “soundness based” independent examination taking into account conformity with regional plans, policy and guidance. With this in mind it is perhaps advisable that those involved at Departmental and Local Government level of the planning system engage with each other at an early stage to ensure a coherent housing strategy for NI that dovetails with the ongoing LDP process.  This along with engagement from stakeholders such as developers, planning consultants and the public will help ensure a workable and coherent housing strategy for NI.

Next steps

The simplest way to respond to this consultation is online via the following link by 16 July 2021 but responses can be emailed or posted.

The Department will consider the evidence and any recommendations which might involve legislative change will follow the normal policy development process including public consultation in due course.

TLT’s Planning and Environment team regularly advise on housing matters in Northern Ireland, including providing strategic planning advice, reviewing Environmental Statements and negotiating s76 planning agreements. For more information, please contact Andrew Ryan or Sarah Mulholland.

Contributor: Sarah Mulholland. 

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2021. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions

Written by

Sarah,Mulholland,TLT

Sarah Mulholland

Date published

29 June 2021

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