VETERAN homebuilder James Hagan has said he will not reverse his decision to turn his back on the construction industry in Northern Ireland until the issues currently clogging the planning system are addressed.
And he claimed: “Today, unfortunately, you work from a position of planning refusal and have to buy your way to approval. This must change.
Mr Hagan, whose Ballyclare-based company has built more than 4,000 properties in the north over the past three decades, revealed in September that he would not buy any additional sites in Northern Ireland and would turn rather towards the Republic or Great Britain. “where we can obtain planning permission much more easily”.
Raised on a farm in Doagh, he is now domiciled in Australia and has started working at his first site just outside Sydney.
He used a webinar hosted by Tanya McGeehan of MCG Investments to launch a scathing campaign against planners and demand that officials sit face to face with local developers to address the issues they face.
He said: “My patience is exhausted and I will not be buying any new development sites in Northern Ireland.
“Previously, each application was considered on its own merits with a presumption in favor of development.
“But now you’re working from a denial and you have to buy your way to an approval. The developer is increasingly being asked to contribute financially to things like the purchase of infrastructure when it should be taken from one of the planning consultant’s budgets.
“There are a number of local councils that have proven very difficult to work with, and most of the developers here know that but are afraid to raise the issues because they are afraid the same officers will cause them problems. ‘other problems.’
Mr Hagan said one of his developments – backed by local elected officials – had been suspended for three years.
He said, “I don’t understand why these problems are being created. The more we invest in real estate, the more roofs there are over people’s heads and the more taxes are paid. It sounds really simple, but seems to be lost on many officials.
Mr Hagan, who has 10 live developments remaining in Northern Ireland, which he will complete over the next five years, urged those involved in the planning process to address the issues he faced and are currently facing his peers here.
“We need everyone to be seated around a table, from the biggest home builders to MPs. It means there is nowhere to go. They can then answer the questions and stop blaming themselves.
“Let’s go back to the old ways of sorting things.
“Get everyone around the table, throw everything out there and don’t get insulted.
“It’s about solving problems, not creating problems,” he said.