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Apr 2018 right left


Coppicing Small Trees

Sunday 8th April
Knockbracken Allotments, South Belfast


Integrated Water Management and Sustainable Drainage

Wednesday 11th April
QUB, Medical Biology Centre, Lecture Room 2, Ground Floor, Lisburn Road, Belfast


Our Earth, Our Future: to mine or to mind?

Saturday 14th April
Greenvale Hotel & Restaurant, 57 Drum Road, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
See website for details


Path Maintenance

Sunday 22nd April
Bog Meadows Nature Reserve Belfast


Making Mitigation Work

Thursday 26th April
Red Cow Moran Hotel, Dublin
£45 – £160

LIFE Information Day – Dublin

Friday 27th April


Assembly News (Dec 09) 6 March 2012

By Sean Kelly and Seamus og Gallagher, Policy Officers, NIEL

Written Questions
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Committee on Climate Change (6 November)
Although the Minister revealed her Department had not yet sought advice from the Committee as its work to date has concentrated on low–carbon power, buildings emissions and transportation, she did note that its future work would include non–carbon emissions such as methane and nitrous oxide, both of which are very relevant to agriculture. She would therefore take their recommendations and future work into account in future policy development. The Minister stated that she had discussed climate change with other Ministers and her officials are actively engaged with the Rural Climate Change Forum and other administrations to establish robust measurement and reporting tools through green house gas inventories.  The Minister added her officials also sit on the Defra led Carbon Budget Working Group and that policy areas being developed include land management, nutrient management, livestock management and renewable energy.

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Renewable Energy Targets (6 November)
The Minister provided an update on progress in relation to achieving renewable energy targets namely: that by 2012, 12% of our electricity consumption will come from indigenous renewable sources and that, of that renewable element, 15% will be from non–wind sources. The Minister stated that by the end of September 2009 had reached 8.9% on the main target with a 2.4% non–wind contribution.

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Electricity Costs and impact of 40% renewable target (6 November)
The Minister explained that although when issued for consultation in July 2009, the Strategic Energy Framework had estimated the cost of the proposed 40% renewable electricity target would be approximately £99 per household per annum, further detailed analysis now indicated that the figure would be around £50 per household per annum. Despite these increased costs the Minister added that that oil and gas prices are likely to increase in the future as demand continues to increase globally and stocks dwindle. So reducing our dependence on these fuels and increasing our use of renewables should help protect Northern Ireland consumers, across all sectors, from global price fluctuations.

Department of the Environment

Carbon Emissions (13 November)
Minister Poots outlined both his and the Executive’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in 2025 on 1990 levels. The Minister evidenced his own Department’s commitment through the progression of various pieces of policy and legislation including the Climate Change Act, the Carbon Reduction Commitment, the Energy Efficiency Scheme and Planning Policy Statement 18 on renewables. DoE is also the lead department in the monitoring of the PfG’s greenhouse gas target through Public Service Agreement 22. The Minister stated that the latest figures (2007) show that greenhouse gas emissions in Northern Ireland have reduced by 13% (carbon dioxide by 9%) on 1990 levels. Based on this latest data it is projected that if this progress continues, a reduction of 22% in greenhouse gas emissions will be achieved by 2025 against the 25% target.

Planning Applications (13 November)

The Minister revealed that the number of planning applications received in 08/09 had fallen by 26.7% compared to 07/08. Similarly in the first quarter of 09/10 application numbers decreased by 16% with just under 5,400 applications received. The number of applications processed to decision or withdrawal in the first quarter of 09/10 was 5,768. Over the last 12 months, the total number of live applications under consideration has continued to reduce, continuing a trend from 2006/07. However the Minister stated that this reduction in live applications should be set in the context of both the number of applications being received by Planning Service and, a number of significant process improvements delivered by Planning Service including Streamlined Council Consultation and the Development Management Good Practice Guide.

Department of Finance and Personnel

Energy Efficiency (13 November)
Following consideration of responses to their recent consultation on this Energy Efficiency, England and Wales intend to introduce regulations in October 2010 to require that the energy efficiency of new buildings is improved by 25%, rising to 44% by 2013. Minister Wilson stated that his officials are working with their counterparts in England and Wales and preparatory work has begun on a similar amendment to our equivalent Part F of the Northern Ireland Building Regulations, with a view to introducing parallel regulations some six months or so after England and Wales. This delay is to allow sufficient time for local public consultation and to ensure that the regulations are adapted as appropriate to suit the different fuel circumstances in Northern Ireland. While reaffirming his intention that all new homes should be zero carbon, the Minister expressed concern that the measures that may be required by a developer to achieve a zero carbon home may not be cost effective in relation to the expected benefit, and any Impact Assessment to support the necessary amendment to the building regulations will have to demonstrate that the measures are technically, functionally and economically feasible before such amendment is made.

Department of the Environment

Mournes National Park (20 November)
The Minister stated that he was keen to progress new national parks enabling legislation which would pave the way for the establishment of one or more national park in Northern Ireland. He plans to present an emerging findings paper on this issue to the Executive shortly. The enabling legislation will set out the purpose and aims of a national park, including an aim concerning the promotion of communities’ economic and social development. The proposals will also cover criteria for identifying potential national parks, management and funding arrangements, statutory duties and powers, and a clear and rational process by which parks would be designated. Until such times as enabling legislation is in place, the Minister added he had no plans to designate any particular area a national park.

Department of the Environment

Septic Tanks (27 November)
NIEA estimates that there are approximately 16,400 un–consented On–site Waste Water Treatment Systems (OWWTS), such as septic tanks or other privately operated sewage treatment systems, in Northern Ireland. The Minister stated that it’s NIEA’s policy to initiate enforcement action only where a pollution incident is of high or medium severity. Pollution incidents involving OWWTSs, are almost invariably of low severity because of the localised nature of the discharge. In the last 5 years, NIEA has taken prosecution action for illegal discharges from consented OWWTSs on 5 occasions, but has no record of prosecution action having been taken in the last 5 years for un–consented OWWTSs installed pre–October 2001.

Department of Finance and Personnel

Targets for a Carbon Neutral Estate by 2015 (27 November)
Minister Wilson revealed that the most recent Public Sector Energy Campaign report shows carbon emissions across the Northern Ireland public sector estate to be 2.5% below the 99/00 base level in absolute terms (a 10% reduction per sqm of space occupied). However the Minister stated: The target of a ‘carbon neutral government estate by 2015’ was set prior to devolution and while I strongly support the introduction of cost–effective measures to reduce energy costs across the public sector, I would question any policy which is likely to result in the Northern Ireland government purchasing carbon offsets particularly when the budget applied to this measure is likely to be lost to the Northern Ireland block.

There will be an opportunity to review the policy of achieving a ‘carbon neutral government estate by 2015’ as part of the development of a revised Sustainable Development Implementation Plan following OFMDFM’s recently launched consultation on the revised Sustainable Development Strategy.

Committee Business
Chairperson Of The Committee For Regional Development

Water And Sewerage Services (Amendment) Bill: Extension Of Committee Stage (2 November)
The Chairperson explained that the Committee Stage of the Water and Sewerage Services (Amendment) Bill began on 30 September 2009 and that the Bill aims to ensure the continued provision of customer subsidy for Northern Ireland Water (NIW) in the absence of funding through payments by customers. Under the existing Water and Sewerage Services Order 2006 the DRD is required to make grants to Northern Ireland Water equal to the amount of discount provided to customers in the initial period. This initial three–year period runs out on 31 March 2010.  DRD have stated that it has no means to make grants to NIW after that date. The cost of further deferring water charges, should the Executive decide to do so, is estimated to be about £1 billion over the next three years. Therefore, significant financial implications will arise from the deferral of water and sewerage charges, and the Bill creates the mechanism to implement any decision by the Executive to continue to defer charges. At a Committee meeting on 7 October 2009, members signed a motion seeking an extension to the Committee Stage until 19 January 2010. The matter was resolved and the extension agreed.

Ministerial Statement – Minister of the Environment

North/South Ministerial Council – Environment Sectoral Format (9 November)
The Minister explained that the Council agreed proposals from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NIEA for the development and publication of a common set of environmental indicators. Ministers agreed that the common indicators will be published in 2011 as part of the North/South statistical profile or through appropriate reports of environmental indicators by the relevant agencies.  Ministers had noted that the NIEA and the EPA are developing a joint paper on environmental research and that opportunities to maximise access to EU funding for environmental research will be explored. Ministers further agreed that the environmental research information, which was available on the aNSwer website, will be made available on the NIEA and EPA websites.  The Council welcomed the continuing progress of the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive on shared waters and noted that the North/South Market Development Steering Group is working to exploit economies of scale in the market for recycled materials in both jurisdictions. Ministers also welcomed the joint concerted enforcement actions that are continuing to target illegal shipments of waste.

Ministerial Statement – Minister of the Environment

Planning Policy Statement 7: Draft Addendum (9 November)
The Minister launched a four month consultation period on a draft addendum to Planning Policy Statement 7 designed to safeguard the character of established residential areas. The addendum provides three operational planning policies. The first two will enable better management of proposals to redevelop existing buildings, infill vacant sites, including gardens, and convert buildings to apartments, including those for multiple occupancy and introduce space standards to ensure that there will be adequately spaced dwelling units. The final operational policy set out in the draft addendum encourages greater use of permeable paving in new residential developments.


Department of the Environment

Planning Reform – Consultation Response and Third Party Right of Appeal (9 November)
The Minister stated that almost 500 people, representing a wide range of sectors and organisations, attended one or more of the consultation events and 264 formal written responses were received. The Minister who hopes to bring his final policy proposals to the Executive for consideration in January 2010, explained that existing proposals do not include the introduction of a right to a third–party appeal but will examine the creation of more opportunities for front–loading so that people can make their views known on a planning application as early as possible and for developers to engage in meaningful consultation with the public. This does not preclude the opportunity of introducing a third–party appeal after the consultation process is completed. However, the Minister made it clear that if he introduced the right of a third–party appeal it could not be allowed to cause a backlog in the system that would result in further delays. It would be designed in a way that would ensure the efficiency of the process and would allow decisions to be made earlier and on a regular basis. The Minister briefly explained one of the systems he had considered, which would allow planning decisions to be turned around in eight weeks whereby third–party appeals can be permitted but only if they are deemed not to be vexatious. The Minister added: If the third–party appeal is lost, the persons who instigated it are often expected to pay for it. We might end up with a system that incorporates third–party appeals and that could, potentially, deliver a faster planning process. However, …[people]… might not necessarily be looking for that sort of third–party appeal, and sometimes, we need to be careful what we ask for.

Local Government Legislation (9 November)
The Minister reaffirmed his intention to introduce the local government reorganisation Bill to the Assembly by May 2010, subject to Executive agreement. Consultation has not yet commenced as the proposals for consultation have been with the Executive since June 2009.  The Minister added that there will be consultation on the proposals, so they are subject to change. However if those proposals are not in the public domain within the next two weeks, it could cause considerable future difficulties and could jeopardise the May 2011 target date for the introduction of the new councils.

Department for Regional Development

Belfast Rapid Transit System (16 November)
The Minister outlined his plans to introduce legislation that will provide DRD with the necessary powers to implement the Belfast rapid transit system by June 2010 and for public consultation on the policy proposals to commence later this month. The rapid transit division is preparing a project works programme which will denote the main milestones up to December 2011 for taking forward the required primary legislation to allow for the implementation and operation of rapid transit. The three pilot routes have been identified and the target remains to commence work on the first rapid transit line in greater Belfast by 2011. The Minister stated that the budget for the rapid transit system has not been allocated at the expense of other public transport budgets.

Executive Committee Business – The Minister of the Environment

Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill – First stage (30 November)
On the 30 November the Minister  introduced the wildlife and Natural Environment Bill to the Assembly.  The Bill will make provision about biodiversity; amend the wildlife (Northern Ireland) order and Part 4 of the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002; to abolish game licences and game dealers’ licences; and for connected purposes.  The Bill passed its first stage and is currently scheduled to have its Second Stage on 8 December.  The text of the bill as introduced by the minister can be found at:

Assembly Christmas Recess
The Assembly will close for the Christmas and New Year holidays from:
12 December 2009 to 3 January 2010. (First Plenary Sitting – 11 January 2010)