NI developers to be forced to complete sites

A power under the Planning Order to require developers to complete developments they have begun work on in Northern Ireland is being tested for the first time.

There are a large number of partially constructed developments or sites throughout Northern Ireland, with work on residential areas and apartment blocks in particular, having come to a halt as a result of the decline in the property market. Planning permission obligates developers to begin work on their development within five years, but thereafter there is no deadline for completion, which means projects can be stopped at any time and for any length of time. Article 37 of the Planning Order provides that developers can be issued with completion orders, but there has been no use of the power to date.

The department of the environment say they will serve the first completion order in respect of a site in Portstewart, which was formerly the site of the Strand Hotel. N M Developments received planning permission to build an apartment block on the site in the late 1990s, but construction never progressed beyond the first level. If the order has issued, the developers will have a specific period to complete the build, and if the deadline is not reached the planning permission will expire. The company owner, Norman Menary, has requested a hearing in front of the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC).

Alex Attwood, Environment minister for Northern Ireland, has said that more powers are required beyond the issuing of completion orders, and has pledged to request changes to the law that would empower the government to move on to sites when planning permission expires in order to have them cleared.
Solicitors and developers in Northern Ireland will watch the progress of this case with interest, as the implications for other unfinished sites in the province could be huge.

If you require legal advice in respect of a property development matter, including single build constructions and housing developments, contact one of the property solicitors at Wilson Nesbitt by calling 0800 840 9290.