Measures to accelerate “less controversial” planning applications have been called into question by a local councillor after moves to extend graveyard space in Dungiven ran into delays.
SDLP Councillor, Michael Coyle says the streamlining process introduced by planners was designed to allow local authorities to deal with certain applications more quickly. Instead of being in the planning system for months, potentially, once streamlined they could be dealt with as quickly as a couple of weeks.
Colr. Coyle said while the idea is good in theory, especially for the applicant, practically it is not so simple.
One such application which illustrates that, he said, is the plan for an extension to St. Patrick’s Church graveyard in Dungiven, utilising existing access road and car park.The application was received by planners last August, and was streamlined in January.
“Dungiven graveyard was put through streamline process, which is a good way of dealing with less controversial planning applications as it cuts down on the amount of time to get an application through,” said Colr. Coyle. “It takes one month for the application to come to Council and then back to group planners before an approval can be made whereas with the streamline process it is done possibly within one to two weeks and obviously great for the applicant.
“This particular application was to designate the area left of the chapel as graveyard space, but the problem arose when the application appeared on the streamline list.
“It said ‘neighbour notification’ had been carried out, but I’m one of the neighbours and I checked with the others and no-one had received any information. The second problem was there were no plans or diagrams on the website and that rung alarm bells for me. As a councillor for the area I am entitled to ask for withdrawal of the streamline list, which would then go onto the normal list and this didn’t happen.”
When Colr. Coyle queried the matter ,he said he was informed an archaeological dig was being carried out and the matter was being dealt with locally.
“This is were my query arises. Are we getting a proper system of planning here? It seems in theory streamlining is good but, practically there seems to be a problem. This application in particular first came onto the streamline list in January and here we are in April. The applicant expected the matter dealt with inside two, at most four weeks, but here we are into four months. That is not acceptable.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Environment said: “Planning Department is currently awaiting the submission of an archaeological survey as requested by Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Archaeological Survey Branch. Once the survey is received and NIEA clear the outstanding consultation the Department will be in a position to make a recommendation on the application to Limavady Borough Council. At this time the Department has no objection in principle to the extension of the graveyard.”