New planning role will be top of agenda for ‘super council ‘

Braid Arts Centre
Braid Arts Centre

When a new Mid & East Antrim Council is elected in May, planning will be ‘the first item on the agenda’, Ballymena’s Chief Executive Anne Donaghy has said.

Describing planning as “a big issue” for the new ‘Super Council’ she said a special committee will be set up to deal with it and could be comprised of up to 50% of the new local authority which will have 40 members.

Speaking at last Monday night’s February monthly meeting of Council, she told members that this would require “a relevant and robust” training programme for elected representatives and staff and that a legal advisor would be required who would, “in the early days”, attend planning committee meetings.

Back in December at a meeting of the Mid & East Antrim Statutory Transition Committee in The Braid, Environment Minister Mark Durkan said funding would be directed towards STCs to provide localised induction.

He said Planning Service staff would be arranging mock planning meetings for elected members and that, when functions transferred, the Department would retain an oversight role and provide additional guidance/support.

The 11 new so-called Super Councils for Northern Ireland will replace the current 26 district councils with Mid & East Antrim comprising Ballymena, Carrickfergus and Larne.

In addition to local planning, they will have responsibility for housing repairs and demolition.

The first elections to the new councils will be on May 22 and provision has been made by government where a transitional period will run from that date until April 1, 2015, when the new Councils will adopt their full role, responsibilies, powers and functions.

The newly elected councils, acting in shadow form, will have the statutory authority and democratic mandate to make policy decisions that will shape the direction of the new council before it becomes fully operational.