Council says ‘sorry’ over planning upload glitch

Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue.
Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue.

Derry & Strabane Council has apologised after an “administrative error” which resulted in decisions on three major planning applications having to be postponed.

The matter came to light at the start of the Planning Committee’s November meeting at the Guildhall on Wednesday afternoon.

Responsibility for the planning portfolio has transferred from the Department of the Environment’s Planning Office to Derry City Council along with the amalgamations of councils across the North, as part of Review of Public Administration, earlier this year.

A senior council officer informed the committee there had been an administration error and the list of planning applications was not uploaded as a result.

As a consequence, she said, three planning applications that people might want to make representations about, were removed from the list of matters being brought before the committee. “We apologise for the error. It won’t happen again,” she said.

Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue responded: “We do have to allow for human error. I would like to say at this point, given that council have taken on this Planning responsibility, we are going to be monitored by government on how many applications we put through at any given time, but we are also going to be monitored by our constituents and the public of Derry City and Strabane District Council.”

Colr. Logue asked officers; whether the staffing complement was as it should be within the Planning department, adding that if there were issues, was there anything the council could do to address them.

A senior officer responded that staffing levels since the transfer from DoE to Council would be reviewed.

“We have been unfortunate to have had had to do some recruitment of staff due to maternity leave and staff sickness, all of which are a priority. There is no delay there but that does take some time to work through the process.”

She added; “If there are any gaps in service or we feel staff aren’t able to deliver because of a lack of resources, we will decide then on a way forward.”

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney agreed that human error had to be expected and questioned whether the council was safe enough to proceed with the rest of the applications. An officer responded that they were “as safe as we can be”.