Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Minister criticises planning move

Aurora
A computer generated image of the Aurora building on Belfast's skyline

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has criticised officials in his department for rejecting plans for a high-rise building in the centre of Belfast.

Planners said proposals for the Aurora building in Great Victoria Street "did not pay due regard to the character of the site and the surrounding area".

But Mr Wilson said the building of the 90m project, which would be 37-storeys high, would have economic benefits.

NIPSA said a number of its members were unhappy with Mr Wilson's comments.

"The minister isn't a planner, that's why you have planners there who are there to make independent decisions having gone through the expertise, having gone through the training," NIPSA representative Paddy Mackel said.

"They have to adhere to the planning policy, they have experts' guidance and opinions that can be given and sought and they did that."

Earlier, Mr Wilson had said that "in this case" he believed the Planning Service had "failed".

"There are currently millions of pounds of investment from private developers held up in the planning system," he added.

"At a time when the economy needs a boost, my view is we should be using the planning service to give it that boost."

The company behind the project said it would appeal against the decision by the Planning Service to refuse planning permission.

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