Cross-party deputation from Mid-Ulster to meet Minister over funding shortage

Martin Kearney
Martin Kearney

A deputation from Mid-Ulster District Council is due to meet Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan today to press for £100,000 for ICT equipment to enable the transfer of the planning service to Magherafelt.

SDLP Councillor Martin Kearney

SDLP Councillor Martin Kearney who chairs the Mid-Ulster Council Planning Committee, said he was confident the relocation to Magherafelt District Council offices would take place on schedule.

Fears were raised at last month’s meeting the of Mid-Ulster Council when it became known that an extra £100,000 was required, bringing the total cost of installing the new planning powers to £860,000.

A floor at Magherafelt Council offices has been set aside for a planning staff of around 40, who are expected to be in place before the new council gets up and running in April.

“The technology is needed and the money will have to be found,” said Councillor Kearney.

“Magherafelt council offices will provide prefect working conditions for the staff and ideal parking for visiting members of the public.”

He refuted any suggestion that the planning service could go elsewhere in the new council area at this late stage.

The nine-strong deputation will be pressing Minister Durkan to come up with the funding required for the transfer to be completed.

“The council has spent much time and put a lot of hard work into the transfer, including visits to Kilmarnock Council to view the planning service available there,” he said.

DUP Councillor Paul McLean said the council would simply have to recoup the money from the Environment department.

“The process (transfer of planning) has already begun and we can’t have the planners arriving without the equipment to operate with,” he said.