NILGA’s Place-shaping and Infrastructure Network held a virtual meeting today to discuss the future transport plans for Northern Ireland, the changes to policy required, how the current epidemic has heightened the focus on sustainable transport and the collaboration required with local government to deliver the transport infrastructure of the future.
Councillors and officials also discussed at the meeting how the epidemic has impacted on planning across the 11 councils areas, the steps being taken to mitigate the impact of COVID – 19 on the planning process, and how public participation in planning is being supported at the current time.
The meeting was virtually attended by Liz Loughran, Director of Transport Policy, Department for Infrastructure and Angus Kerr, Chief Planner for Northern Ireland.
Speaking following the meeting, Councillor Stevie Corr, (Belfast City Council) Chair of NILGA’s all council Place-shaping and Infrastructure Network said: “This was a welcome and timely opportunity to engage with leading departmental officials on the future of the region’s transport policy and planning systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to transform our public transport infrastructure and create greener, more sustainable communities. Out of the crises of the coronavirus can come a healthier public transport system. By designing town and city centres to accommodate increased walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure, we can protect our climate, public health, and our communities.
“Engagements like this morning’s meeting ensure that local government’s voice is amplified and made clear to leading central government officials. By co-designing policies and working together to shape our villages, towns, and cities, we can build healthier and happier communities.
“We discussed how councils have reacted and adapted flexibly to the COVID-19 crisis and ensured that the planning process is affected as little as possible throughout the lockdown. We also considered the development of pragmatic solutions and innovative approaches such as the potential use of drones for site visits.
“It is crucial that decisions on planning continue under the current circumstances and councils have been working hard to ensure that vital decisions continue to be made. Public participation and citizen feedback is a key part of the planning process and councils have adapted quickly to ensure that people can continue to take part despite disruption to events like public consultations.”