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Muir: Major shake-up of Northern Ireland’s planning system required.

Alliance Infrastructure and Finance Spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has called for a major shake-up of the planning system in Northern Ireland, after it emerged that applications dating as far back as 2005 have been waiting almost 700 weeks for a ministerial decision.

As a member of Stormont’s Infrastructure Committee, Mr Muir’s question to the Minister for Infrastructure revealed that 40 applications are awaiting a decision from her department, including five that have been waiting for more than a decade, and 20 that have been waiting for between two and five years.

He said: “The Department’s response points to a litany of delays and a planning system in need of reform. Investment in infrastructure is being held back by government just when we need these projects to progress and stimulate our economy to safeguard jobs and livelihoods.

“I’m calling on the minister to consider, as part of the forthcoming review on the implementation of the Planning Act 2011, whether powers to determine regionally significant and called-in planning applications should be transferred from the department to an independent body. In addition I want to see an infrastructure commission for Northern Ireland, similar to those that already exist in England, Scotland and Wales, to be considered in order to improve the delivery of major infrastructure projects.

"The recent Northern Ireland Audit Office report on major capital projects points to the need to change how public sector infrastructure projects are delivered on the ground.

"This merits swift and proper consideration of establishing an infrastructure commission like other parts of the UK already have."