ARDS and North Down has suffered Northern Ireland’s biggest drop in planning applications.

Bids to build new houses, construct extensions or carry out major remodelling work are down by one-fifth on last year.

And although applications have declined across Northern Ireland as a whole, in Ards and North Down they’ve fallen around twice as far as the provincewide figure.

Local council planners theorise that the drop is happening because the cost of living crisis and high inflation are driving the price of construction and materials up.

But an Ards and North Down Council spokesman didn’t offer any explanation for why the decline should be so much more severe in this area.

Newly published statistics have shown that from July through September this year, the number of planning applications filed in Ards and North Down fell by 21.2% compared to the same period in 2022.

That’s the steepest decline in Northern Ireland, and provincewide planning applications fell by 11%.

Over the current financial year as a whole, this borough has seen a 20.2% drop in the number of planning applications received.

The decline not only means fewer contracts and therefore less money for the construction industry, but could also have an impact on the council as planning application fees are used to cover part of its running costs.

A council spokesman reinforced that applications are falling across Northern Ireland as a whole, adding: “We can only surmise that this is related to the cost of living, inflation and potentially the increase in construction and materials costs.

“Any decrease in the number of applications will have an impact on the [council] Planning Service’s income. This income is also related to the category of fee that each application falls within.

“Where there may be a volume of householder applications, the fee income is not significant given the relatively low fee associated with this category.”

The spokesman also stated that provincewide moves are already under way that should make the planning system more financially sustainable.