Derry City Council’s Planning Committee is the first committee within council to hold its last meeting as the countdown to the new super council officially begins.
Following the planning committee meeting this afternoon will be the last meeting of Regional Services. The current Chairperson of the planning committee, SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins has said that there are mixed feelings as the countdown to the new super council officially begins.
Councillor Dobbins said the coming days would be bitter sweet as councillors and staff embrace the changes which lie ahead.
She said: “Today, (Tuesday) for many councillors, will be met with sadness, caution and excitement. Today begins the first of the last of committees in Derry City Council. On April 1 the new Derry City and Strabane District Council will take over the reins and there are a few who, for whatever reason, will no longer be with us. Although we have been sitting in shadow council since June, and have been addressing the changes which will occur, it will be a continuous learning process for all of the new committees for the first few years.
“Across Northern Ireland, one of the major changes is the emergence of a new planning system. Councils will
now have to take responsibility in how we administer our planning system at local level. We will have the
opportunity to influence the use of land and, with regard to the development of land, will have the ability of putting public and community interests and needs paramount. This new planning system will be a culture change for councils, political representatives and developers alike. As the new planning committee will no longer be the consultee but the decision makers, this challenge will be at times a ‘poisoned chalice’. It may at times be controversial and we as councillors will find it necessary to say “no.”
The challenge is in quickly bedding in a ‘can do’ culture, a desire to embrace investment in each area and working to make good, fundamental decisions on development happen, with every decision having its proper place.
“The new process allows for real opportunities for communities to have a say in how land should be utilised or developed. It is vital that there is transparency in the new planning process and it ensures due diligence that communities and business are served with respect to creating balanced, orderly neighbourhoods and industry.
“We have had intense training sessions over the last few months and have visited other councils in Ireland and Wales where the process is already in place and is seen to be working.
“Our new council planning committee must be strategic, consistent and equitable across society, ensuring that all interests, economic, social and environmental are taken into account. If we believe in sustainable development and nurturing the environment for future generations then we, in our aim to flourish as a council and be the success we envisage have to take planning very seriously.
“I would like to thank fellow councillors for a smooth term of chair and would like to wish those who will not be continuing into the new DC&SDC every success in whatever their future paths will lead them,” said Councillor Dobbins.