The Commission seeks to process all casework and requests for information in accordance with its published Aims and Objectives.
All complaints are investigated thoroughly in accordance with this procedure. The Commission considers the complaints procedure to represent both an opportunity to improve practice and procedures and an opportunity to correct any errors identified.
Therefore the Commission will
- investigate complaints promptly and thoroughly;
- provide an explanation and/or apology; and
- as necessary, correct errors and/or procedures as soon as possible.
A complaint is defined as any expression of dissatisfaction by any party involved in an appeal or examination/inquiry/hearing. A justified complaint is one where there is substance in the allegation made by the complainant.
The Commission cannot review a decision which has been issued. Such a decision can only be challenged by an application for judicial review to High Court. However, the Commission may issue an amended decision or Commissioner's report correcting:
- obvious typographical and textual errors; and/or
- wording which all parties, including the Commission and Commissioner, agree cannot be right.
Procedure for Making Complaints
Complaints should be made within 6 months of the date of the Commission's decision on an appeal or within 6 months of the date of a Departmental decision on an examination/inquiry/hearing case.
All complaints should be made in writing and addressed to:-Chief Administrative Officer
Planning/Water Appeals Commission
87-91 Great Victoria Street
Tel: 028 9024 4710
Fax: 028 9031 2536
Complaints will be acknowledged within 7 working days of receipt. Complaints will be investigated and a full reply will normally be issued within 4 weeks of receipt. Where it is not possible to issue a full reply within 4 weeks, a holding reply will be issued within that period indicating when a full response might be expected.
Complaints raising issues about the merits of a proposal which is still being considered by the Commission will not be responded to until the decision in that case has been issued. If legal proceedings are initiated while a complaint is being considered by the Commission, the matter will be addressed through the legal process and not through the complaints system.
Method of Investigation
All complaints will be investigated by senior Commissioners or administrative staff not directly involved in the matter at issue and will be replied to in writing. If dissatisfied, the complainant may request a meeting with the senior officers who investigated the complaint to discuss the response.
Complaint files are open for public inspection. They are retained until reviewed by the Panel (see below) and then destroyed.
Independent Complaints Audit Panel (ICAP)
Complaints are reviewed by a Panel consisting of two members appointed respectively by the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Bar Council. Panel members are required to have an understanding of the Northern Ireland planning process and can not be former members of the Planning or Water Appeals Commissions.
The Panel presents a report to the Chief Commissioner which is published on the Commission's website under Publications.