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Mid Ulster goes it alone over new planning IT system

Words: Roger Milne
Submit a planning application / Shutterstock_244874494

Mid Ulster District Council has confirmed to The Planner that it is going it alone and not participating in a new Northern Ireland planning IT system, the contract for which has just been awarded.

The council said its decision to act unilaterally would mean “significant cost savings”.

A spokesperson for Mid-Ulster insisted that the local authority procuring its own system would have a number of advantages including bringing in a replacement system more quickly, “having autonomy over the project, the ability to tailor the configuration of the system to best meet local needs and greater flexibility in contract duration”.

A final decision on the new Mid Ulster system has not yet been made. “The final cost is, therefore, undetermined at this point, but will be significantly lower than the £1.8 million to participate in the new NI Planning Portal system,” The Planner was told.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and the 10 other planning authorities councils have jointly awarded a contract for a new regional planning IT system to TerraQuest, the company that runs the Planning Portal for England and Wales. It will provide continuing support for the new system until at least 2030.

The proposed new system will replace the existing NI Planning Portal, which is reaching the end of its operational life.

A joint investment of £14 million will be made in developing the new system. It will facilitate a more responsive and efficient planning service across both local and central government, including bringing key services like the submission of applications online, insisted the DfI.

It said that the increased use of technology and online processing would be of significant benefit in supporting economic recovery in the context of Covid-19.

The current system supports the planning system with more than 12,000 planning applications a year. It is used by at least 700 staff, and more than 500 consultees and thousands of citizens annually.

The new system will be phased in from late 2021 to early 2022 and users will be informed of the changes within each council area, at the appropriate time.

TerraQuest leads a consortium featuring Planning Portal and DEF Software.

Image credit | Shutterstock