Belfast City Council has announced that it has furloughed staff on a rotational basis in its planning department, and that this may impact on its service levels. Belfast City Council has also stated that “No site visits are being undertaken for planning applications due to Government restrictions on movement and social distancing, however [they] are working on a strategy to safely introduce these into the service.”
RSUA has written to Belfast City Council to seek clarification for members on the following points:
- Fees – applicants have already paid for their applications to be processed and would therefore expect that the income would be there to keep staff employed to process them
- Workload – it is RSUA’s understanding that there is sufficient demand in the system to fully utilise all planning staff
- Site visits – RSUA is aware that other local authorities (such as Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council) are able to offer open air site inspections & inspections within unused buildings. RSUA believes that for many sites it should be quite easy to ensure appropriate precautions are undertaken to protect staff and – given that site visits cannot be done from home that – this element constitutes a scenario where travel to sites could be allowable.
RSUA will keep members updated with the status of the planning service offered by Belfast City Council.