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NI minister decides against devolving regeneration powers

Words: Roger Milne
Communities minister Paul Givan

Northern Ireland's communities minister Paul Givan has disappointed local planning authorities by announcing that regeneration powers, due to be transferred to the new councils, will now remain with the devolved administration and will continue to be exercised by the Department for Communities (DfC).

Givan insisted that local authorities would continue to play a major role in successfully implementing the country’s regeneration programmes.

He said he would explore whether there was a case for extending regeneration activities such as public realm schemes to settlements of fewer than 5,000 people and will review the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme as part of a wider consideration of how best to address deprivation.

The minister said: “While the initial intention was to extend regeneration powers to local government, the necessary legislation did not progress within the mandate of the previous Assembly. In the intervening period new central government departments have been established with a broader range of functions and there is a new approach to the Programme for Government by the NI Executive.”

He added: “The new context calls for a new direction of travel. I want my department to be at the forefront of that change, using all of the powers and resources at its disposal to achieve the outcomes and the ambition the executive has for our society as set out in the Programme for Government.  

“This is not the time to tinker with who is responsible for what, or to concern ourselves with the splitting up of the regeneration budget. Rather it is the time for all the stakeholders to work together to maximise our joint effect and achieve positive change in the issues that have bedevilled this society for too long.”

Currently the department’s policy on physical regeneration programme, such as public realm, development grants and revitalisation, is restricted to towns with populations of at least 5,000.

The review process is likely to take 18 months – two years to complete and the development of proposals will involve by widespread consultation, promised the minister.

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