Derry and Strabane are to get a single Planning Office next week ahead of the two councils merging and taking over planning powers in April.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has announced that the Derry City and Strabane District Council dedicated planning office will open from next Monday, February 9th.
At present, the Department for the Environment Planning Service for Derry and Strabane operate from two locations- Orchard House for the Derry area and County Hall, Omagh for Strabane.
But from Monday, planning functions including planning applications, enforcement and Development Plan for both areas will be delivered from Orchard House.
Planning services for Limavady, which are currently delivered from Orchard House, will be moved to County Hall, Coleraine from the same date.
Welcoming the changes Minister Durkan said: “Planning reform is about bringing forward improvements to the planning system, improvements that will bring planning closer to the public and make it easier for the public to access and participate in the planning process.
“This is part of the wider local government reform programme which will ultimately deliver local councils which are more effective, more efficient and more responsive to the needs of their local business and community.
“All 11 new councils need to be ready to assume their new responsibilities when planning functions are formally transferred to them in April. Aligning DOE planning services with the new council areas is another tangible step forward in this preparation.”
Presiding Councillor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Maoliosa McHugh said the transfer of the planning function to the new Council marks a significant step forward.
“I am delighted to welcome staff from the Planning Service to the new Council,” he said. “We are working to ensure that provisions are in place to allow members of the public to conveniently access all planning services and that their transition period will be seamless.
“I would like to acknowledge the work going on behind the scenes to successfully deliver this transfer process and assure the public that we will continue to work in close partnership with all the stakeholders to ensure we are ready for this exciting new era for the city and district.”
All planning applications and queries for the Derry City and Strabane District council area should be directed to Orchard House from 9th February.
All applications already in the system for the new council area will transfer to Orchard House and planning officers will continue to process these as normal.
If you are unsure which new council area you are in, you can find out at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/newcouncils.