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May 2018 right left


Community Places Free Planning Advice

Wednesday 2nd May
Community Places, 2 Downshire Place, Belfast BT2 7JQ


Dry Stone Walling

Sunday 6th May
Mourne Mountains


Belfast Roadshow on Sustainable Development Goals

Tuesday 8th May
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, 3 Cromac Quay, Ormeau Gasworks, Belfast BT7 2JD

Sustainable NI Carbon Management Training

Wednesday 9th May
Parliament Buildings, Belfast
See above


An Evening Walk in Spring

Saturday 12th May
Belfast Area

Guided bluebell walk at Prehen Wood

Sunday 13th May
Prehen Wood, Derry~Londonderry


Bluebell Stroll with the Ranger

Saturday 19th May
Murlough NNR
No Charge, Donations Welcome

Glenoe Geology Walk

Saturday 19th May
Glenoe Waterfall
No Charge, Donations Welcome

Gilford Castle, Gilford Village, Co Armagh – Historic Garden Restoration

Sunday 20th May
Gilford Castle, Gilford Village, Co–Armagh


Carbon Management Course

Wednesday 23rd May
Inspire Business Park, Newtownards
£225 (No VAT to pay)


Country Fair

Sunday 27th May
Florence Court
Normal Admission Members Free

Jazz in the Garden at Mount Stewart

Sunday 27th May
Mount Stewart
Normal Admission Members Free

Cruise the Lough

Monday 28th May
Adult £4, Child £2


Assembly News (Nov 11) 6 March 2012


Written Answers to Questions

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Greenhouse Gas Emissions (7 October)
The Minister stated that DARD is co–ordinating an extensive research programme to assist the agriculture sector in reducing GHG emissions. In conjunction with DEFRA, the Scottish and Welsh Governments, DARD is currently contributing to a £12.6m, 5 year project to improve the accuracy of the agriculture inventory. Accurate assessment of emissions from a wide range of production systems is an essential prerequisite for development of future specific mitigation measures. The Minister acknowledged that we must also jointly accept our responsibility to future generations and reduce the net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture production alongside other sectors of the economy while managing the increasing demand for food, water and energy in the face of a changing climate. The Minister also stated however that she would not support any climate change legislation that targets the agriculture industry unfairly, limits its potential for growth or exports production and jobs to other less efficient countries.

Rural White Paper Action Plan (28 October)

The Minister was asked whether she has secured any financial commitment from her Executive colleagues to implement any of the actions contained in her Department’s Rural White Paper Action Plan. The Minister replied that all Departments have contributed to the development of the draft Rural White Paper Action Plan and each action contained in the Action Plan has been allocated to a lead Department. The lead Department will be responsible for meeting the financial costs associated with implementing each of its actions. It is anticipated that the final Rural White Paper Action Plan will be published in early 2012 following approval by the Executive.


Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment
Fracking and Environmental Damage (14 October)

In response to what laws or regulations are in place to protect against environmental damage which could be caused by the fracking process, the Minister replied that the drilling of an exploration borehole involving hydraulic fracturing will require planning permission under The Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 and the Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999, as amended. The latter provides for the environmental effects of the drillsite and all associated activities to be assessed before a decision on planning permission is made. The NlEA will require any company proposing to use a hydraulic fracturing process (Fracking), depending on the exact details of the operation, to apply for a consent to discharge, under the Water (Northern Ireland) Order, and a licence to abstract under the Abstraction and Impoundment (Licensing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006. Other permissions and assessments may be required from the DoE depending upon the activities proposed by the company and their exact location in relation to sensitive environmental receptors and designated sites. DETI will require all other permissions to be in place and may also carry out its own environmental assessments of the proposed drilling activities prior to making a decision on permission to drill. The Petroleum Production Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1987 oblige the Licensee to avoid harmful methods of working and give DETI the power to make instructions to that effect.

Renewable Obligations Certificates (21 October)

The Minister explained that the Renewables Obligation Order (Northern Ireland) 2009 includes a requirement to review Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC) levels every four years to take account of changes in technology costs and deployment levels. A public consultation will launch shortly on proposed ROC levels for the period 2013 to 2017. A formal consultation response will be published and draft legislation laid before the Assembly as soon as possible after the consultation ends. Subject to Assembly and state aids approval, the new bands will come into effect on 1 April 2013 as planned (1 April 2014 for offshore wind).


Minister of the Environment
Marine Bill (7 October)

The Minister re–iterated his commitment to bringing forward the Marine Bill at the earliest opportunity. As currently drafted, the Marine Bill provides for marine spatial planning, for the streamlining of certain energy licences, and for conservation zones to help protect habitats and species. The Minister also stated his belief that the full benefits of these can be realised only if they are implemented in an integrated and independent way and therefore intended to strengthen the Bill through provisions for a Marine Management Organisation. Proposals for this organisation are currently being developed and he plans to outline the timetable for introduction following consideration of these proposals by the Executive.


Independent Environmental Protection Agency (21 October)

The Minister stated that the purpose of the recent Environmental Governance discussion document was to test the water to establish firmly and directly what the community, stakeholders and others believe is best in going forward and to gauge if there is an appetite for structural reform leading to a truly independent environment agency – 83% of respondents to the initial discussion document exercise indicated support for the creation of an independent Environment Agency. The UFU indicated its opposition to the creation of an independent agency claiming that it will only lead to additional cost and more red tape for farmers. The Minister planned to carry out a much more detailed consideration, taking into account the views of key interests and all of the relevant issues, including the impact on farmers, to ensure that any final proposals for the creation of an independent environment agency are robust, deliverable and deliver improved and more efficient levels of environmental protection. The Minister added that an important element of any future work programme will be to complete a robust and fully costed business case. The business case will be essential to support final proposals to establish an independent environment agency. There will also be a full public consultation on any final proposals.


Marine Conservation Zones (21 October)

The Minister was asked what steps have been taken to ensure that the Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) are in place by 2012. He replied that in relation to marine nature conservation, the Department’s priority is to complete the designation of marine Special Areas of Conservation for sites of European importance under the Habitats Directive by 2012. In parallel, the Department is bringing forward a Marine Bill which includes powers for the designation of MCZs. It is intended that MCZs will complement the existing designation and protection measures for European marine sites and form part of the UK’s overall network of Marine Protected Areas.

Single Use Carrier Bags (28 October)
The Minister provided an update on the proposed levy on single use carrier bags and stated that his objective is that charging for single use carrier bags should commence from April 2013. Achievement of this target depends, of course, on the required subordinate legislation and the necessary operational arrangements being in place in advance of that date. The public consultation on proposals for the levy closed on 12 October 2011 and the Minister stated that he was considering whether, in the longer term, the charge should be extended to cover certain types of reusable bags. This would be similar to the approach in the Republic of Ireland, where the levy applies to reusable plastic bags which are sold for less than 70 cents. This issue was addressed in the policy consultation; any such extension of the Northern Ireland levy would require further primary legislation.


Oral Answers to Questions  

Minister of the Environment

DOE: Legislation (4 October)

The Minister confirmed that he is minded, subject to Executive agreement, to bring before the Assembly at least eight Bills including legislation on national parks, marine management, a planning reform Bill and a climate Bill within this Assembly mandate.  As consultation on the national parks legislation is about to end (30 September), he expected the Executive to endorse an approach to that within the next four or five months. A marine Bill has already been tabled for Executive consideration and although not tabled at meetings, it has been circulated to Executive colleagues since June. The Minister added that he had instructed the Office of the Legislative Counsel to draft additional clauses to enhance that Bill through the establishment of a marine management organisation. He also intended to shortly table a planning reform Bill, which has been substantially drafted which will devolve some planning functions to local councils in advance of the RPA. That would enable councils to build up their capacity for dealing with that essential political and operational responsibility before 2014 or 2015.

Areas of Special Scientific Interest (4 October)
Speaking in relation to the protection of ASSIs, the Minister said scientists should not have a veto over how we progress various matters. A stocktake of each and every ASSI is carried out annually. Every six years, a scientific survey is conducted to find out whether further damage has been caused. In answer to a specific question the Minister stated that he did not believe that scientific advice should, in all circumstances, prevail. ‘Sometimes, scientific advice is too exacting, even, at times, to the point of being precious when it comes to a planning application’ adding, ‘whatever the scientific advice might be and while listening to best advice and taking it fully on board, nonetheless there are wider considerations that would see a planning application here or there be permitted’.


Heritage Crime (4 October)

The Minister revealed that currently no structured record is held centrally of heritage crime and where, when and how often it occurs and that the PSNI does not record in a dedicated way heritage crime and other types of damage from broader categories of damage to property. The PSNI, along with the Environment Agency, has begun to rectify that situation so that, if the numbers and the extent of damage to heritage property continue to spike, we will have a central database to show where, when and how often that happens and what the trends look like. DOE are currently looking at a range of possible interventions, including working with other agencies, working with owners and potentially increasing legal powers to reinstate or rebuild properties damaged by heritage crime.


Agriculture: Organic Manure (18 October)

The Minister was asked to provide clarification and certainty for farmers who were unable to spread organic manure before 15 October 2011 due to the wet weather. The Minister stated that while he did not have ‘legal cover’ to grant a general extension beyond the close season, there was provision in our nitrates regulations that says that no penalty may be imposed on farmers in a situation where, on a case–by–case, farmer–by–farmer basis, there is reasonable excuse for an inability to comply with the nitrates directive on slurry spreading in the close season and where farmers can produce evidence that that has been the case. As a consequence of that, in my view, on a case–by–case basis — I accept that that may amount to significant volumes of farmers, there was sufficient legal cover and legal protection for the farmer to not comply with the end of the season. In addition, they would have the protection thereafter that, at some time in the future, given the weather conditions it is uncertain when slurry may or may not be spread — they would have protection for non–compliance with the end of the season because they were able to prove a reasoned excuse. The Minister did not outline any deadline for the spreading of slurry. In response to this announcement the NI Freshwater Taskforce called for farmers to notify NIEA and DARD if considering spreading organic manure outside the closed period. If slurry is not spread in appropriate conditions, it can easily find its way to our watercourses and cause water pollution. This can result in high levels of nutrients which threaten freshwater wildlife and increase the costs of treating water for the provision of drinking water. The Taskforce believe it is necessary to have a record of the number of cases where slurry has been spread outside the closed period in order to assess the impact of this extension. They also called for a time limit to be put in place.


Minister for Regional Development
Schools: Walking and Cycling 17 October

In response as to whether he was supportive of Sustrans’ call for the forthcoming Programme for Government to include specific targets on increasing the proportion of children who walk and cycle to school, the Minister stated that DRD currently promotes walking and cycling to school through its Travelwise initiative and Safer Routes to Schools programme, which offers appropriate education and awareness resources, such as ‘Best Foot Forward for Schools’, for use in the classroom. To build on that important work, DRD has been working on an Active Travel strategy, which is being drafted under the guidance of the Active Travel Forum. The Minister hopes to issue the draft strategy for public consultation in the near future and confirmed that promoting and increasing active and sustainable travel to schools will be a core part of the Active Travel strategy. The Minister added that the Programme for Government (PfG) is a strategic–level document, setting out the Executive’s collective priorities and key targets. It will be for the Executive, collectively, to agree the level and nature of any targets. However, he expected the PfG to reflect our commitment and direction for transport.


Adjournment debate: Sixmilewater River: Pollution (18 October)

During this debate on the Sixmilewater the DoE Minister revealed a number of initiatives he intends to explore in relation to the protection of our rivers. These included: running a series of meetings on our freshwater environment similar to those he already hosted in relation beach and water quality, planning, crime and built heritage etc. in order to identify what could reasonably be done in the short term and more strategically through policy and legislation; consideration of how we could bring together, in a much more joined–up or perhaps more integrated way, all the functions of government that impact on rivers; consideration of whether an independent environment agency is the best model and mechanism to deal with issues of water management; and, independent of what structures there are, rigour of approach when it comes to penalties and criminal actions in respect of rivers is the front line in ensuring that river management and water quality is maintained. In confirming that during 2012, there will be a local management area plan for the Sixmilewater river, the Minister acknowledged, given the constraints of government power and money, the more that local communities take responsibility for our local waterways, local buildings and other examples of local built natural heritage, the better.