A lack of transparency over political donations could create “major questions” over the impartiality of planning decisions under the new 11-council model, the Northern Ireland Conservatives have said.
Yesterday, the News Letter revealed that councillors in the new councils — which will take over planning powers from 2015 — will not have to declare if developers fund their parties, even when their decisions stand to benefit those individuals or firms.
NI Conservatives’ environment spokesman Brian McBride said that councillors would be taking decisions “despite the fact that they may have been in receipt of major anonymous donations from developers or other interested parties. Lack of transparency raises a risk that the impartiality of decisions could be affected.”
He added: “Northern Ireland’s planning laws are outdated, slow and have created difficulties for the economy.
“However, we’ve got to ensure that decisions are transparent.
“That is the case in the rest of the UK, where parties are required to declare major donors. In Northern Ireland, NI Conservatives operate the same standards by publishing all donations which are over that threshold.”
Mr McBride called on Stormont’s Department of the Environment, which is overseeing council reform, to address the issue.