As Chair of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee, Councillor Lindsay Millar oversaw local government planning reform and improved the turnaround time of planning applications along with council colleagues.
The councillor, who was elected three years ago, chaired the committee during a formidable period of success, including the Council having cleared all but one of its backlog of legacy planning applications. Mid and East Antrim also achieved the most efficient timeframe for the processing of applications of all Northern Ireland’s 11 councils.
Councillor Millar says: “It’s been an incredible year, although it was a steep learning curve. I read that I was the youngest planning committee chair in Northern Ireland and my first meeting was rather daunting as one of the most experienced politicians in the country was registered to speak. I was definitely thrown in at the deep end, but I’ve never looked back. It has been one of the key drivers of my political career to date.”
As part of local government reform, planning, which was previously delivered in Northern Ireland through the Department of Environment, transferred to councils in April 2015.
Councillor Millar took up the reins of the Planning Committee in 2016 and chaired the group responsible for overseeing improvements that resulted in Mid and East Antrim’s subsequent billing as the top performing local council in terms of the efficiency of its planning application process.
The Council’s planners took on average 9.8 weeks to consider applications, compared to a target timeframe of 15 weeks.
The percentage of enforcement cases processed within 39 weeks last year was 88.1 per cent, well above the 70 per cent target and is another factor driving the pro-business environment in the Borough.
Indeed, such was Mid and East Antrim’s success, Councillor Millar was invited to Ukraine last October to address politicians on best practice in planning.
She says: “I’m exceptionally proud of our achievements and they are due to our excellent planning team and ethos and support of Council.
“The past 12 months have consisted of many highlights, one which stands out for me personally was the passing of a much-needed new build for Woodburn Primary School in Carrickfergus in November 2016.
“It was also hugely exciting to be involved in the formation of the Preferred Options Paper, which is vital to the future shaping of our Borough.”
The Borough’s first Preferred Options Paper marks a key milestone in the Council’s ongoing work towards the formation of the Local Development Plan, which will inform all planning decisions throughout Mid and East Antrim until 2030.
Councillor Millar adds: “At the heart of the conversation is the ability to deliver development to meet our economic and social needs without compromising the quality of our environment. That is always at the forefront of every decision made by the Planning Committee.”
Councillor Millar handed over the role of Chair of the Planning Committee to her colleague Councillor Andrew P. Wilson in June.
A series of public information events on the Preferred Options Paper will be held throughout the Borough in July and August. To find out more, or to read and comment on the paper, visit www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/pop