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Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to publish the draft Belfast metropolitan area plan; and what the reasons are for the further delay in publication. [109018]

The Development Plan Programme set out in Planning Service's Corporate and Business Plan 2002–03 indicated that the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP)—Draft Plan would be published before the end of the 2002–03 financial year.A number of important research studies being carried out by, or on behalf of, the Plan Team, required ward level data from the 2001 Census. As this data was not published until 19 December 2002, I agreed a revised timetable with members of the Political Group, representative of the six Councils in the Belfast Metropolitan area, which oversees the process and which I Chair. This revised timetable allowed for completion of the research, and indicated that the Draft Plan would be published in September 2003.A number of factors outside the control of the Plan Team now mean that it will not be possible to meet that timescale.Following an initial round of consultation meetings between the BMAP Team and the Councils within the Plan area, a number of Councils have written requesting an extension to the consultation timeframe. I have agreed to this request.The amended consultation timeframe, together with the fact that a number of inputs to the BMAP process from other bodies will not be available until May/June, will result in the final Council consultation being delayed until late summer. While this delay is unavoidable, it is essential that the new timetable is strictly adhered to, in order that the plan process remains within an appropriate timeframe.

I have written to members of the Political Group to advise them of the amendments in the consultation timetable. The full implications of the timescale for the remainder of the BMAP process will be considered at the next meeting of the BMAP Political Group. I will write to you further to advise you of the outcome of that meeting.