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28/04/2016

Ulster Unionist Party pledges faster turnaround for ‘economically significant’ projects

Mike Nesbitt

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has pledged to introduce greater targets on turnaround times for planning applications considered ‘economically significant’ in its election manifesto.

The Assembly election for Northern Ireland will take place on 5 May 2016.

Housing

 

To boost housing development in Northern Ireland, UUP commits to making it a priority for councils currently developing their own local development plans to review current and projected housing demand in their areas.

The party also commits to reducing the “cost, complexity and ambiguity” of central and local government regulation, which it believes is hampering house building, and seeks to consider the introduction of a government backed deposit scheme for first-time buyers, offering tax bonuses.

To address the “major shortage of social housing”, UUP promises to build 10,000 new social and affordable homes by 2021 and support the transfer of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to housing associations. In addition, it plans to place a duty to prevent homelessness on statutory services such as the NHS and prisons.

UU would also allow the NIHE to borrow against its assets of “88,000 homes and annual rental income stream of £280m” to access private finance.

Planning

 

The manifesto calls for a Northern Irish planning system that is “fit for purpose” and which can respond “quickly and fairly”. To attract the investment and jobs that NI needs, it suggests the right balance needs to be struck between the interests of communities and developers.

The party suggests that planning authorities need to give more “practical support” to housing and sustainable development. To that end, it would introduce greater targets on turnaround times for planning applications “such as those considered to be economically significant”.

Transport

 

By 2050, Northern Ireland’s hard infrastructure will need to be replaced or upgraded, the manifesto suggests. To do this, the party calls for “province-wide” investment in an integrated road/rail transport system, cycling networks and airlinks.

The party pledges to bring forward key major capital projects including the York Street Interchange, the A6 and the Belfast Rapid Transit-system. It also seeks to agree a multi-year road maintenance budget in the departmental baseline, rather than “unsustainably rely[ing] on the monitoring round process”, and would explore the creation of a new public sector procurement and delivery agency for major capital projects.

The party is also committed to promoting cycling as a feasible mode of transport, according to the manifesto, and would support the development and implementation of a traffic-free cycling infrastructure.

It pledges to realise the vision set out the executive’s 25-year bicycle strategy and support accommodation of active travel being a consideration in planning for new developments.

Energy

 

The manifesto recognises that because of its relative “geographic isolation”, Northern Ireland is dependent on imported fossil fuels for 99 per cent of its energy needs, and calls for an updated strategy for energy to be at the core of a new programme for government.

The party wants to consult with the industry and general public on devising a bespoke Northern Ireland renewables policy, and promises flexibility in incentivising new and emerging green energy technologies such as smart and micro grids, battery energy storage energy from waste.

It also plans to continue opposing fracking applications unless these have been independently supported by evidence-based judgement.

Natural environment

 

The party pledges to adopt a target to halt biodiversity loss by the end of 2021 and place a duty on all departments with the Northern Ireland Executive to meet “measurable biodiversity targets”.

The manifesto also cites commitments to introduce a new coastal protection strategy, to strike a balance between the historic built environment and the heritage tourism industry, and increase woodland cover by 2,000 hectares by 2021.


The Ulster Unionist Party’s manifesto can be found here.


The DUP has committed to delivering 8,000 social and affordable housing units by 2020 and establishing funds aimed at tackling energy efficiency, renewables, telecommunications networks and urban regeneration in Northern Ireland. More information can be found here.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) is resolved to combat the segregation of communities in Northern Ireland by establishing a shared housing task force to promote greater diversity in housing. More details can be found here.

Sinn Féin commits to spending £6 billion to improve infrastructure and vows to build 10,000 new homes in its manifesto. Full details can be found here.


PICTURE CREDIT | ALAN BELFAST

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