Northern Ireland

Sixty planners redeployed to Land and Property Services

Sixty planners from the NI Planning Service will be redeployed to Land and Property Services, the environment minister has said.

In April, the BBC revealed that 270 workers from Planning Service were to be moved to other departments.

Last month, staff identified for redeployment were made aware they had been selected.

Edwin Poots said the jobs were a sign of the Department of Environment's commitment to redeploy affected staff.

"The Department is putting all its efforts into securing successful schemes to transfer or loan staff to other areas in order to keep these key skills within the wider Northern Ireland Civil Service; this remains our primary focus," he said.

The 60 workers will be working on a Department of Agriculture and Rural Development project for the Land and Property Services, which is a agency of the Department of Finance and Personnel.

The DoE said staff would initially be selected via expressions of interest and would work in four teams of 15. Two teams would be based in Belfast, one in Downpatrick and one in Omagh.

Cynthia Smith, chief executive of the Planning Service, said staff would be moving to "related posts" that provided an "opportunity for continued professional development".

Funding gap

One in three staff working for the Planning Service are to be moved.

The details of other members of Planning Service staff, who have been told they are to be redeployed, have been placed in what is called a "priority surplus pool" to which all Civil Service departments have access when filling vacancies.

They do not know where they will be redeployed to.

The DoE said the decision to move staff was due to an £8m gap in funding for the Planning Service blamed a fall in applications during the economic downturn.

The number of planning applications has fallen by 45% from 2004-05 when 36,593 were made.

It is estimated that a total of 20,000 planning applications will be received during the year 2010-11

Also in April, the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) confirmed that all departments within the NI Executive were assessing staff levels for 2010/11.

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