Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland councils have 'adequate' impartiality safeguards

Image caption The 11 super councils are now able to accept or reject developments in their own areas

Northern Ireland's chief planning officer has said she is confident adequate safeguards have been put in place to ensure councillors act impartially over planning issues.

Fiona McCandless said she wanted people to have confidence in the new system.

Planning powers were transferred from the 26 old councils to 11 new super councils on 1 April.

Ms McCandless told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Business programme that her aim was to provide a high quality service.

"That necessitates everybody operating to the highest standards in order to secure confidence in what is a particularly new system," she said.

There have been concerns that the transfer of planning powers to the new 11 super councils could make corruption easier.

Under the 26-council system, applications to build a new house or erect an extension went through Stormont's environment department.

Councils are now able to accept or reject certain developments in their own areas.

However, Ms McCandless added that they had also introduced a new code of conduct for councillors.

"In it, we had a special section in relation to planning matters," she said.

"We've done a huge amount of work in terms of making sure that the necessary procedures are in place to ensure that there is accountability in order to secure confidence in the system."

Inside Business with Wendy Austin is on BBC Radio Ulster on Sundays at 13:30 BST

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