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Mallon seeks to improve community engagement

Words: Laura Edgar
Community engagement / Shutterstock: 144653342

Nichola Mallon, Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister, has established a Planning Engagement Partnership to assess how to improve community engagement.

She said the partnership would consider how the quality and depth of community engagement could be enhanced at regional and local planning levels, as well as to help improve the planning system experience for users.

Key planning stakeholders would be brought together, including Community Places, which provides support to people and communities engaging in the planning process.

Mallon said: “Public participation is an important part of the planning process and it is imperative that we look at ways to improve the community’s interaction with it, whether that be through commenting on your council’s local development plan or planning applications, or responding to consultations on policy or guidance.”

She noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought community engagement into “sharp focus”, as the Department for Infrastructure has put in place temporary legislation and guidance that aims to enable councils to continue processing major planning applications.

When the planning system was reformed more than five years ago, Mallon continued, a key aspect was to improve community engagement in the planning process.

“This forum provides an opportunity for sharing experience, good practice and learning gained through the operation of the planning system over the last five years, and for considering what more we can do to enhance community involvement. The partnership is part of our ongoing work to improve the planning system, and people’s experience of the planning system.”

Colm Bradley, director at Community Places, added: “We hope this partnership will provide enhanced and properly resourced community engagement in the planning system, creating a more level playing field for communities and individuals to have a real say in shaping the places which matter most to them.”

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