The Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, said this week that there is a “21-day window” after next Thursday’s General Election to restore devolution to Stormont. Since the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed earlier this year (following the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal), there has been uncertainty over the budget and programme for public spending but how will this affect the rate of future house building?
There was positive news earlier this month that the number of new homes being built in Northern Ireland had reached a five year high. This is likely to be affected by the political impasse as the increase in new starts was primarily due to social housing development and there is currently an ongoing debate about reclassifying housing associations as private bodies. Further to this, regeneration schemes are likely to falter without an agreed Executive budget.
From a planning point of view, the recent transfer of powers from Stormont to reconfigured local authorities means that development decisions should not be affected. To keep up the rate of house building at current levels though is expecting a lot from the private sector (to make up for the potential shortfall from social housing). As Gavan Rafferty, lecturer in spatial planning at Ulster University, points out “the [relatively] new planning system also has a role to further sustainable development, improve well-being, and to create shared space.” This will require political leadership at a local level to encourage investment through suitable housing development.
Although there may be political challenges at Stormont there is an emphasis on community planning in Northern Ireland and we encourage as many local people as possible to take a proactive and positive approach to supporting housing in their areas. You can sign up to UK YIMBY here to find out what development is planned in Northern Ireland, or anywhere else in the UK.