Assembly News (Mar 10) 6 March 2012
By Seán Kelly, Policy Officer, NIEL
Executive Committee Business
Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill: First Stage (22 March)
The Minister of the Environment introduced the Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill which is a Bill to amend the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 and the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Northern Ireland) Order 1998. The Bill passed First Stage.
Executive Committee Business
Renewables Obligation (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2010 (23 March)
The Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment sought and gained support ‘that the draft Renewables Obligation (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2010 be approved’. The Order introduces important changes to the Northern Ireland renewables obligation (NIRO). The changes to the NIRO for this year are designed to ensure that it continues to encourage renewable electricity generation and to deliver the target of 40% by 2020, while ensuring that any additional costs to the consumer remain minimal. The main amendments to be introduced are: the extension of the end date of the NIRO to 2033; introduction of a 20 year limit on support; removal of the 20% cap on the obligation; increasing the level of headroom to 10% from the 2011–12. The Minister explained that although the DECC is introducing a feed–in tariff in GB for small–scale renewable generation and despite strong support for a similar move here, there is currently no primary legislation in place to allow us to introduce a feed–in tariff as an alternative to the NIRO. In response, and to ensure that the renewables sector here is not disadvantaged the Minister announced the introduction of equivalent support under the NIRO. New small–scale installations accredited after 1 April 2010 will receive the following increased support: onshore wind projects under 250kW, 4 NIROCs per MWh; Solar photovoltaics between 0 and 50kW, 4 NIROCs per MWh and Hydro stations up to 1MW will receive between 2 and 4 NIROCs per MWh. In addition, landfill gas will be ‘uprated’ to receive one NIROC per MWh. In relation to anaerobic digestion (AD), the Minister stated that to date there was not yet the evidence available to justify an increase to the current two ROCs for AD. Finally the Minister outlined a number of reasons why, in her view it would be wrong to include existing small–scale wind developers in the enhanced ROCs.
Planning Reform (2 March)
The Minister stated that the Executive has agreed his final proposals on Planning Reform and provided a brief summary of the final proposals. These proposals include: planning policy statements will not be reviewed until after the transfer of planning powers to district councils; development plans will be taken forward as outlined in the consultation paper, with the exception of the proposal to give independent examiners the power to determine the most appropriate procedures in dealing with representations to the local development plan; development management proposals will be as outlined in the consultation paper, with the exception of the proposal to reduce the normal default duration of planning permissions and consents from five to three years. DoE will also revise details and proposals for the development hierarchy; the time limit for submitting an appeal is to be reduced to four months and DoE does not intend to proceed with legislation to allow the PAC to determine the most appropriate appeal method. While local member review bodies will not be introduced at this time the award of costs will be introduced. Although no formal proposal for third party rights of appeal was included in the consultation, DoE have agreed that further consideration of the issue will be deferred until the changes to the planning system have settled down; retrospective planning applications will attract a multiple of the normal planning fee and fixed Penalty Notice powers for breachs of Enforcement Notice or Breach of Condition Notice will be introduced. However DoE does not intend to make it an immediate criminal offence to commence development without planning permission; as there are cross–departmental implications in terms of funding and infrastructure responsibilities, DOE considered the matter of developer contributions to be an Executive issue. Details of the government response to the Reform of the Planning System in Northern Ireland consultation can be found here.
Draft Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill (8 March)
The Minister updated members on the Draft Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill, which he issued for public consultation on 1 March, stating that the Bill is about promoting quality of life by taking care of the environment. The proposed Bill contains provisions designed to improve the quality of the local environment by giving district councils additional powers, similar to their counterparts in England and Wales. These powers will enable Councils to deal more effectively with litter, nuisance alleys, fly–posting and graffiti, abandoned and nuisance vehicles, dogs, noise and other nuisance problems. The consultation on the detailed proposals of the Bill which closes on the 23 April can be viewed and downloaded here.
North/South Ministerial Council: Environment Sectoral Format (16 March)
Ministers discussed the targets for the transposition of the waste framework directive, which is due to be transposed into national law by the end of the year, and on waste policy developments in each jurisdiction. The directive requires a significant increase in reuse and recycling rates for a wide range of waste streams. Ministers also heard proposals to create synergies between the market development programmes in both jurisdictions and the exploitation of economies of scale in the market for recycled materials. The Council received a progress report on the repatriation of illegally dumped cross–border waste and welcomed enforcement actions to target shipments of waste. The Council also received a progress report on work by the EPA and the NIEA on developing a common set of environmental indicators and on research. Ministers also noted joint EPA and NIEA work to facilitate and encourage access to EU funding and in particular on the INTERREG and seventh framework programmes. Ministers welcomed a joint presentation on the river basin management plans and the programme of measures for their co–ordinated implementation.
North/South Ministerial Council: Transport Sectoral Format (22 March)
The Council noted that contractors had been appointed to the A5 and A8 road projects and with the next key milestone being the publication of the draft Orders associated with the environmental statement, the direction Order and the vesting Order. This is likely to lead to the holding of a public inquiry in 2011. Subject to satisfactory progress from draft to statutory procedures, and the confirmation of the availability of funds, it is anticipated that construction could start in 2012 and be completed by 2015. Ministers noted the Department of Transport’s publication of the ‘National Cycle Policy Framework’ and through the Travelwise initiative, how DRD actively promotes walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing to businesses, commuters and schools as well as DRD’s formation of an active travel forum. Officials are actively pursuing a sustainable transport agenda, sharing experiences on issues such as public bike rental schemes and progressing plans for an all–island bike from 13 June to 20 June. The jointly supported car–sharing website for the north–west region is now also operational. Ministers reviewed the outcome of the initial meeting of the freight forum at which stakeholders with an interest in promoting a sustainable freight sector identified a number of priority issues issues including the need to be competitive in a sustainable manner and safer, compliant and eco–efficient road freight transport.
Private Members’ Business
Boiler Scrappage Scheme (8 March)
Members debated and resolved a motion that: This Assembly notes the introduction of a boiler scrappage scheme by HM Government and calls on the Minister for Social Development to examine the scope for the future introduction of a similar scheme in Northern Ireland. The proposer (Simon Hamilton) noted that between the motion being tabled and this debate, DSD has responded positively to a request from the Social Development Committee, for a boiler scrappage scheme for Northern Ireland to be examined. While the boiler scrappage scheme proposed a payment in England of £400 to help people to convert from energy efficiency G–rated boilers to A–rated boilers, devolved arrangements mean that the initiative would not automatically be rolled here. The advantages of the Scheme were outlined as: energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and enhancing the economy. The Minister stated that she has asked her officials to include proposals for a boiler replacement scheme in the new fuel poverty strategy that will be available for public consultation in the spring. However, any such scheme introduced will target vulnerable households in which people live in fuel poverty; it will not focus solely on reducing carbon emissions, as is the case with the scheme in England.
Oral Questions – 1 March
Department of the Environment
Greenhouse Gases: Hydrogen (1 March)
The Minister outlined the need to consider all initiatives and their potential to reduce transport emissions, which account for nearly 30% of Northern Ireland’s total carbon dioxide emissions. While he understood that many companies are working to develop technologies that might effectively exploit the potential of hydrogen energy for transport he cannot say whether hydrogen will become a suitable alternative to fossil fuels. The Minister referred to the Committee on Climate Change’s December 2008 report that electric cars combined with the decarbonisation of electricity generation could lead to dramatic reductions in emissions from cars and light vans. He stated however that electric cars are beneficial only if carbon neutral electricity is being used in them adding that they only work well if they are used in conjunction with renewable energies. DoE meanwhile are also looking at the potential for Belfast to bid to be one of the six UK cities to plug in electric cars.
Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment
Energy from Waste (23 March)
The Minister revealed that her Department is working on the development of four different energy from waste projects, which are at varying stages of progress. In addition to the Rose Energy project, Invest NI is also engaged in negotiations with the directors of Linergy power in Dungannon with a view to securing a mutually acceptable offer of support. Granville Eco–Park is conducting another of the projects, also in Dungannon. Finally, Strabane Mills recently secured planning approval and is about to begin construction of a plant at a total cost of £10 million. That plant is expected to be in operation by early 2011.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Forest and Woodland (5 March)
The Minister stated that up to the end of December 2009, 426 hectares of new woodland have been created by farmers and landowners under the Woodland Grant Scheme. This figure was much lower than the planned 1650 hectares of forest and woodland by 2011 outlined in the PfG. In order to encourage more farmers and landowners to create their own woodland, the Minister announced increases in grant rates of up to 30 per cent in November 2009. Since then, there has been more than a three fold increase in the number of applications in December 2009 and January 2010 compared with the same period last year. The Minister added that this renewed interest in woodland creation, together with Forest Service’s promotion of the forestry schemes, will put us back on course for the PfG woodland target.
Minister of the Environment
River Pollution (12 March)
The Minister provided an update on the number of people prosecuted for river pollution in each of the last three years under the terms of the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 and the Pollution Prevention and Control (NI) Regulations 2003.
| Water (Northern |
Ireland) Order 1999
| Pollution Prevention and Control|
(NI) Regulations 2003
|2007|| 29 || 0 |
|2008|| 40 || 1 |
|2009*|| 31 || 1 |
|Total || 100 || 2 |
*In line with other years, a number of 2009 cases are either pending with Public Prosecution Service (PPS) or remain to be referred to PPS by NIEA.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Nitrates Regulatory Committee (19 March)
DARD officials, AFBI staff and officials from the DoE are currently in discussions with the European Commission in relation to the Nitrates Directive. These discussions cover the review of the current Nitrates Action Programme, the Action Programme for the period 2011 to 2014, and the application to renew the derogation. The derogation allows grassland cattle farms to operate above the 70kg/Nitrogen/hectare/year limit set by the Directive, subject to specific additional conditions and applies to grazing livestock manure only. It does not cover poultry manure or litter which must be applied within the 170kg/Nitrogen/hectare/year limit. The current Action Programme contained a temporary measure to allow the storage of poultry litter in field heaps until 31 December 2008. However, subsequently, agreement was secured from the Commission to extend this temporary measure up to 31 December 2010. However, Commission officials have made clear that they do not want to see the practice of field storage of poultry litter continue any further beyond 31 December 2010.
Committee Membership: Agriculture and Rural Development Committee (8 March)
PJ Bradley has replaced Patsy McGlone as a member of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development.