About us

The Commission

The Planning Appeals Commission, often referred to as the PAC is an independent body which deals with a wide range of land use planning issues and related matters.  Like other tribunals we operate on the basis of openness, fairness and impartiality.

The Commission’s vision is to:

  • provide a fair, efficient and effective appellate service to the public
  • apply expertise and experience to information gathered through the process
  • contribute to the quality of our environment by making the best possible decisions.

More information on the aims, objectives and work of the Commission can be found in the Chief Commissioner’s Annual Report 2023-2024 and Corporate and Business Plan 2021-2024.

The Commission is not part of any Government Department.  It receives financial and administrative support from its sponsor body, the Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunals Service (NICTS).  The Commission is wholly independent of NICTS in terms of decision-making and the operation of the appeals and hearing/inquiry/ examination processes.

The Commission is made up of Commissioners appointed by the Department.  Commissioners are not civil servants but are appointed following open public competition.  At present, the Commission has nineteen Commissioners.  More details about our Commissioners can be found on the Corporate Information page.

What we do

The Commission’s functions fall into two broad categories arising from decisions of local Council planning departments and decisions or proposals of Northern Ireland Assembly Departments:

  • Decisions on Appeals - the Commission makes decisions on appeals against Council decisions on a wide range of planning and environmental matters;
  • Hearing and Reporting on Public Inquiries/Hearings/Examinations - the Commission makes recommendations on a wide range of cases referred to it by government Departments or arising from decisions of Departments. The final decision in these matters is taken by the relevant Department.

The decision on an appeal may be made by a single Commissioner (a single decision) or by a panel of not fewer than four Commissioners (a panel decision).  The Chief Commissioner decides if the decision in the appeal should be a single or panel decision in accordance with criteria published  (Word 795 KB).  A single appeal decision may be recovered by the Chief Commissioner for a collective decision at any time before the decision is issued.

Commissioners are not involved in any way in cases in which they have a financial, personal or other interest which might give rise to a conflict or potential conflict of interest.

Commission decisions are final and, once they are issued, they cannot be amended, withdrawn or substituted by a new decision.  Our decisions, however, are open to challenge on a point of law by application to the High Court for judicial review.  The Commission also operates a complaints system to deal with complaints about how it has handled an appeal or inquiry. For more information visit our Complaints System page.

You can find more information about our Procedures for Planning Appeals on the Procedural Guides page.

Our Functions

At present the Commission has a range of functions under various pieces of legislation, but principally The Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.  You can view a list of our functions by following the link below.  

To view these click PAC Functions (PDF 45 KB).

The Water Appeals Commission or WAC is a separate body which exercises a wide range of functions in relation to water, fisheries and drainage legislation.

To view these click WAC Functions (PDF 28 KB).