Development plans set out how an area should look in the future by deciding the type and scale of development and where buildings should be allowed.
Development plans in the planning process
Each council must prepare a development plan for their area in consultation with the local community.
The aim of the plan is to make sure there is enough land available for the area's housing, employment and community facilities, while protecting important landscape and environmental features.
Through the development plan, councils can identify the best locations for new homes, businesses and infrastructure while also protecting places of value to people or wildlife. The plans are an important consideration in dealing with planning applications and should help guide decision making.
Preparing a development plan
When preparing a development plan, the council should consider:
- the council’s Community Plan, this is a long term vision for the social, environmental and economic well-being of their area and its citizens
- the council’s Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) which sets out who, how, where and when consultation and policy making is to take place
- the Regional Development Strategy (RDS) 2035, which is the spatial strategy for Northern Ireland
- planning policy and guidance
- a sustainability appraisal prepared by the council so that economic and social factors are considered alongside environmental factors when developing the plan
To check the current status of a development plan, you can check the council's website.
To download a copy of the RDS or view details of current Northern Ireland regional planning policies, go to the DfI website.
Development plan process
Councils complete five stages to produce a development plan.
Stage 1: Timetable
Each council will prepare a timetable for the development of the local plan which will be approved by the Department for Infrastructure. Each council will publish their timetable on their website.
Stage 2: Preferred Options
The council will publish a Preferred Options paper which should be based on an evaluation and understanding of the area’s needs and characteristics.
Stage 3: Plan Strategy
The Plan Strategy will include the vision, objectives, growth strategy and strategic policies for the council area. This should address the economic, social and development issues of the area by indicating where development, including regeneration, should take place and what form it should take.
The Plan Strategy will have a Soundness Based Independent Examination. This will test the ‘soundness’ of the plan's:
- conformity with central government regional plans, policy and guidance
- process used to produce the plan
Representations in support and against the proposals in the Plan Strategy can be made at this examination.
Following completion of the Independent Examination, the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) will issue the Department with the Independent Examination (IE) Report. On receipt of the IE report and following the Department’s consideration, the Department will then issue a Direction to Council. The council will then adopt the Plan Strategy as directed.
Stage 4: Local Policies Plan
The Local Policies Plan will include policy and proposals, such as settlement limits and zones, which are more local and detailed. It will also have a Soundness Based Independent Examination which will be open to representations in support or against the plan.
Following completion of the Independent Examination, the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) will issue the Department with the Independent Examination (IE) Report. On receipt of the IE report and following the Department’s consideration, the Department will then issue a Direction to Council. The council will then adopt the Local Policies Plan as directed.
Stage 5: Annual Monitoring
Councils must regularly monitor and review their plans so that these are flexible and responsive to change where possible.
Councils must prepare an annual monitoring report. They must review implementation of the plan at least every five years and make alterations and adjustments to the plan when necessary.
Development plans before 1 April 2015
- Development plans were available before planning transferred to councils on 1 April 2015. These plans are valid and will continue to apply until councils have new plans. You can read the Departmental Development Plans here.