James Hagan, of Hagan Homes, made a plea in a webinar from Australia where he has gone to live, calling for NI planning officials to meet with local developers to solve the issues facing them, as he begins work on his first Australian site after pulling out of Northern Ireland
Mr Hagan said: “My patience had run out last year and I made the decision to stop buying any new development sites in Northern Ireland. It used to be that every application was looked at on its own merit with a presumption in favour of development. Now, unfortunately, the developer is being asked more and more to make financial contributions to things like purchasing infrastructure when it should come out of one of the planning consultee’s budgets.‘’
One of Northern Ireland’s largest homebuilders, the businessman made the plea five months after he made the decision to stop buying any more new development sites in Northern Ireland. “Not every council we deal with is the same, but there are three that have proved very difficult to work with, and most developers who work across all councils in Northern Ireland know it. Most are afraid to raise the issues because they are afraid of the same officers causing them further problems.”
Mr Hagan believes one of his developments – which was supported by elected representatives in the area – was deliberately held up by a planning officer for three years. He added: “I don’t understand why these problems are created. The more investment we have in property, the more roofs there are over people’s head and the more rates are paid. It seems simple really but it seems to be lost on many officials.”
Mr Hagan who has ten remaining live developments here urged those involved in the planning process including MLAs and NI Water to confront the problems that faced him and are currently facing his peers here. “We need everyone sitting around a table, from all the bigger housebuilders to MLAs. It means there is nowhere for anyone to run to. They can then answer questions and stop blaming each other. Let’s go back to the old ways of sorting things out. Get everybody around the table, throw it all out there and don’t get insulted. This is about problem solving, not problem making,” he said.