Planning law for the people in Northern Ireland

22 March 2013

Brian Moss of Worthingtons Solicitors Belfast discusses options available to those objecting to proposed developments.

Anyone who has become engaged in the planning process will realise that it is not for the faint hearted. For those who object to a proposed development, it can often seem like your objection, no matter how carefully or thoughtfully worded, is coolly dismissed as not being relevant to ‘planning matters’.

Many people properly enlist the help of their local politicians, object at council meetings, or join a residents’ group to campaign against a planned development. This is only right, as planning is an exercise conducted in the public interest and a proposed development can affect (or adversely affect) entire communities, rather than just individuals. Many examples of communities fighting planned developments spring to mind, from the KFC being built adjacent to a residential area in east Belfast not so long ago, to the controversial waste incineration plant, through to the development of the A5 south-north roadway.

Few realise that they may have options when their objections are unsuccessful and planning permission is granted. There is no such thing as an objector’s right of appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission in Northern Ireland. That route is only available to the disappointed developer. The only option the disappointed objector may have is the right to seek a judicial review.  

There have been many high profile judicial reviews of planning decisions, the latest being the National Trust’s failed attempt to challenge, by judicial review, the development of the new golf resort outside Bushmills. If you are contemplating a judicial review of a planning decision in Northern Ireland, it is absolutely essential to seek legal advice fast. It may also be necessary to involve a planning consultant. This all sounds awfully expensive, but it needn’t be. Legal aid is available in appropriate cases and can be sought on an urgent basis. It may also be possible to purchase legal costs insurance subject to availability and indeed eligibility, or, as in the case of the ‘A5 Alliance’ (who brought the judicial review concerning the development of the A5), if enough people pool their resources, then the large legal and professional fees involved can suddenly seem affordable.

Brian Moss from Worthingtons Solicitors has experience in this area and has successfully pursued a judicial review for an objector in a planning dispute. Please contact Brian urgently in relation to any planning advice you may require.

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