The planning system and development management

The planning system ensures built development is in the right place, including houses, shops, parks, community centres or energy plants. Eleven local councils and the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) are responsible for different types of planning applications.

The role of DfI Planning

DfI is responsible for:

  • deciding regionally significant planning applications; those applications  significant to all or a large part of Northern Ireland
  • reviewing, monitoring and implementing the Regional Development Strategy (RDS) 2035
  • setting regional planning policy
  • making planning legislation
  • oversight and guidance for councils, including the power to ‘call-in’ and make the decision on an application that was submitted to a council
  • providing support to the local councils to monitor performance management and bring forward continuous improvement initiatives
  • progressing workflow from the Reinvestment & Reform Initiative for Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast and St Lucia Barracks, Omagh

The role of councils

Councils are responsible for:

  • local development planning. Each council creates a plan which sets out how the council area should look in the future by deciding what type and scale of development should be encouraged and where it should be located
  • development management.  They decide local and major planning applications
  • planning enforcement. They investigate alleged breaches of planning control and decide any action to take

Each council has a local planning office.

Development management

Councils make most decisions about planning proposals to build on land or change the use of buildings or land. In determining whether to grant planning permission, the council will refer to a number of planning policy documents and planning guidance.

Planning permission

To get planning permission, you apply to:

  • the relevant council’s planning office for local and major development
  • the Department for Infrastructure (DFI) for regionally significant development

You must include enough detail for the council or DfI to see what effect the development could have on the area.

Planning decision

The council should make a decision about a planning application within eight weeks. It can take longer for large or complex applications.

Your local planning office can explain the planning timetable. If your application is not determined within eight weeks, you can appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission.

Permitted development

You can do certain minor works to your home that don't need planning permission. But in conservation areas, permitted development rights might be withdrawn or limited. 

Before you start any building work , you should ask the local planning office about planning permission. 

Go to "When not to apply" information on "Planning permission - when to apply" page. 

You can visit the Planning NI website for more guidance on the development management process and to help you decide whether you need planning permission.

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