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How we process applications

Receiving your application

When we receive your application, we will check if you have submitted the correct information using our application checklist.

If information is missing, we will write to you and ask for it to be provided within 14 days. If you are unable to provide the information in time, we will arrange for the application to be returned (including the fee) so that you can submit it again when all the information we need is ready. 

If you choose to ask for your application to be decided without the necessary information, then there is a risk that it will be refused and we will not return your fee.


Once we have all the information we need, we will carry out consultations on the application in accordance with the legislative requirements (opens in a new window).

We will:

  • publish notice of the application in the press
  • notify neighbours by way of a letter
  • publish information about the application on the Planning Portal Planning Register (opens in a new window)
  • notify statutory consultees such as government departments, and
  • consult relevant non-statutory consultees such as other service areas within the council.

We are unable to give a decision on the application until at least 14 days from when notice of the application is published in the press or from when neighbours are notified, whichever is the later. We are also unable to give a decision until at least 21 days after we have consulted a statutory consultee. 

Applications requiring an Environmental Statement under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (opens in a new window) have a longer consultation period.

Site visits

In some cases, we will visit the site to help our assessment of your planning application. The case officer aims to visit the site within 21 days of the complete application being submitted. We will not always advise you of when we will visit the site because planning officers frequently visit several sites on the same day and it is difficult to give a precise time. However, if the site is inaccessible we will contact you to arrange access to the site in advance.

Feedback on your application

We will contact you once we have carried out our initial assessment of the application to tell you how the process is going. Normally this will be after the consultation period has ended.

If we find a problem with your application, we will let you know as soon as possible. Our aim will be to work with you to try to find a solution, where this is feasible. It will not always be possible to address the concerns under the current application and sometimes a new application may be required.

If we feel that an application should be refused, we will always let you know beforehand. Applications that have fundamental problems will be refused straightaway.

You can track the progress of a planning application on the Planning Portal (opens in a new window). 

Timely decision-making

We aim to decide local applications within an average processing time of 15 weeks and major applications within an average processing time of 30 weeks, in accordance with statutory indicators. In addition, we have introduced a further indicator for deciding householder applications within an average processing time of 12 weeks.

These indicators are an average processing time and we will not be able to decide all applications within these time periods.

If there is a problem with your application, we will let you know. If it is not possible to resolve the issue within the above timeframes we may invite you to withdraw the application and submit a new application that addresses our concerns to avoid your original application being refused.

Our pre-application discussion service is aimed at identifying issues early and will give you a better chance of your application being determined more quickly.

Case Officer report

In most cases, the Case Officer will write a report that sets out their recommendation as to whether the planning application should be approved or refused. The report is a professional and impartial assessment of the relevant issues and only material planning considerations (opens in a new window) may be considered as part of the assessment. The case officer report is always countersigned by another officer.

In the interests of transparency, the Case Officer report will be made publicly available once the decision is made so that reasons for the decision is clear. A copy of the report will be published on both the Planning Portal (opens in a new window) and planning application file.

Contact us

Belfast Planning Service, Ground Floor, Cecil Ward Building, 4-10 Linenhall Street, Belfast, BT2 8BP

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