The planning system
The planning system provides society with a way of controlling how land is used, what is built and where it is built.
Each council prepares and adopts a development plan. The plan includes maps and written policies, which show where and in what quantity the council will allow development .
Councils also administer a development management system to make sure proposed development conforms to the development plan, current planning policies and other material considerations.
The development management system helps balance the need to use land and buildings for homes, offices, factories and schools with a responsibility to protect and improve the environment.
Getting development management advice
If you have any queries about a particular proposal, contact your local council.
If you want to build on a site or develop land, you are responsible for getting planning permission before any work begins.
If you're not sure you need planning permission, you should ask your local planning office immediately.
Certificate of Lawful Use or Development
To get a formal ruling about a proposal, you can apply to the local council for a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development. You pay a fee to apply and give information about the work you want to do.
The council will decide if your proposal is development and if you need planning permission.
General development plan advice
Development plans set out how an area should look in the future by deciding type, scale and location of development to be encouraged. The plans tell the public, authorities, developers and other interested bodies of the policy framework and land use proposals that will guide development decisions in their area.
A council's development plan should:
- identify best locations for new homes, businesses and infrastructure
- protect places of value to people or wildlife
- guide decision making about planning
- give confidence for those wishing to develop and those affected by development proposals
- give general and specific land allocations to meet the full range of needs to support the life of the local community and social and economic progress
- set up a process for involvement and ownership by local communities wishing to influence the future development of their area
Councils must regularly monitor and review their plans to make sure they are flexible and responsive to change where possible.
Councils will 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 as required.
Getting help from an agent or consultant
You can apply for planning permission without employing an agent or planning consultant. If you ask for their help, you are responsible for paying their fees.
To find planning consultants in Northern Ireland, you can search the Royal Town Planning Institute's online directory:
Community Places is an independent organisation which gives advice on planning issues and project support for fully formed groups meeting eligibility criteria.