As April 1st fast approaches and the once centralised planning department transfers its power to the new super councils, the fog is clearing and we are better understanding where, what, why and how this power transfer will effect planning in Northern Ireland.

Following the approval of Commencement No 2 Order by the Assembly in January, planning offices for two districts have been declared.

In preparation for the transfer of planning powers to local authorities on April 1, 2015, the number of planning offices has been increased by the Department of the Environment to align them with the new council areas.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, and Mid and East Antrim Council, now have their own planning offices, with some work already transferred from Marlborough House, Craigavon and County Hall in Ballymena respectively.

Environment minister Mark H Durkan said it marked an important step forward in delivering a “seamless transfer”.

He added: “Planning reform is about bringing forward improvements to the planning system, improvements that will bring planning closer to the public and make it easier for the public to access and participate in the planning process. This is part of the wider local government reform programme, which will ultimately deliver local councils which are more effective, more efficient and more responsive to the needs of their local business and community.”

Chair of Mid and East Antrim Council planning committee, Gordon Lyons, said: “I want Mid and East Antrim to have a planning system that directly benefits local people, our businesses and our environment and grows our economy. We want to use these new powers for maximum advantage. I believe that we have put in place a system which reduces red tape and speeds up the planning process – a system which people can have confidence in. I want investors to see Mid and East Antrim as a place they can do business in.”