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Advice on councillors’ code of conduct

Words: Roger Milne

The Department of the Environment has published public consultation draft guidance on the planning element of the councillors’ code of conduct.

The document makes the point that in six months’ time local government will take responsibility for most planning functions - from drawing up its own local development plans to taking decisions on planning applications and on potentially taking enforcement action against alleged breaches of planning control. 

“This is a major cultural change, where elected representatives move from being consultees on planning matters to being the decision-takers” said the department.

Most planning functions will transfer to the new 11 councils on 1 April, 2015.  The Local Government Act (NI) 2014 introduced a new ethical regime to local government.  

As part of this regime, the department issued a Code of Conduct for councillors, which was approved by the Assembly on 27 May, 2014.  But Part 9 of the code, which contains the planning element, is not due to take effect until 1 April, 2015.

In the interim, the department agreed to provide guidance for councillors on the planning element and to consult on it. This is now underway.