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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 (Apr 10) 6 March 2012

By Seán Kelly, Policy Officer, NIEL

Executive Committee Business
Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill: Second Stage (13 April)
The Minister sought and attained agreement for passage of the Second Stage of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill. The three key features of the Bill, are: new powers for councils to deal with illegal waste activity; development of a fly–tipping protocol which should clearly establish the respective roles and responsibilities of the Department and councils; amendment of the legislative framework in Part III of the Waste and Contaminated Land (NI) Order 1997, which establishes procedures to identify and restore contaminated land and to ensure that those who cause contamination pay for its treatment. Members welcomed the Bill believing it would help meet our EU landfill diversion targets, enable councils to contribute to the delivery of the Department’s waste management strategy commitments, and enhance the Department’s and councils’ waste management controls. However despite its inclusion in the consultation proposals, the Department have decided not to pursue enabling legislation for a single waste authority at this time.  The Chair of the Environment Committee however revealed that as soon as the House passes the Bill’s Second Stage, the Committee will call for written submissions from interested organisations and individuals and its members will be extremely interested in hearing all views.

Executive Committee Business – Budget
Revised Programme of Expenditure 2010–11 (20 April)
The Minister of Finance and Personnel sought and gained Assembly approval of the revised programme of expenditure proposals for 2010–11 as set out in the Budget laid before the Assembly on 13 April 2010. The Chair of the Environment Committee outlined the Committee’s views on the DOE’s revised expenditure plans for 2010–11.The £4 million savings required by the Executive, combined with a significant shortfall in planning fees, the cost of planning reform and the review of public administration, result in the Department being called on to make savings of 11.3% in its baseline budget. The Committee generally welcomed the proposals for achieving those savings, which include reducing the amount that it spends on consultants, lowering its running costs and reviewing its corporate service functions. Members were pleased that the DoE intends to focus its staff cost savings on not filling and that they will bring the Planning Service’s operating costs into line with the reduced fees that are now being received.  However, Members remained concerned about the impact on NGO’s, who unlike the DoE do not have the opportunity to relocate staff, and will have to make people redundant leading to a loss of expertise, and the deterioration of the environment. The Chair acknowledged that some organisations affected by the decision deliver or contribute to statutory environmental protection obligations, and cutting their funding may not be the most cost effective approach in the longer term if it leads to further deterioration of protected sites and/or EU infraction proceedings. However he stated that DoE had allayed some of the Committee members’ concerns by indicating that it is looking at phasing out grants over a longer period and targeting organisations that have a variety of funding streams available to them and are, therefore, not solely dependent on the Department’s funding. The Committee also urged the DoE to base any decision to cut funding on recent and impartial information about the service or function provided. That must include assessment of the need for a service or function, as well as the value for money that the organisation is providing.

Executive Committee Business
Forestry Bill – Consideration Stage (27 April)
Following discussion, members agreed a number of amendments to the Forestry Bill including: Amendment 1 which makes the key strategic aims of afforestation and sustainable forestry more prominent; Amendment 7 which provides a more explicit reference to biodiversity and the mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change; Amendment 10 which limits compulsory acquisition of land for the purposes of providing or improving access to support functions; Amendment 11 places a duty on DARD to provide and maintain a register of woodlands at least every 10 years; Amendment 15 limits the definition of the control of ‘wild animals’ to deer or hares (other than Irish hares); Amendment 16 extends the definition of the trees to be protected; Amendment 17 removes the loophole allowing the killing of animals at night; while Amendment 29 which deals with the importance of protecting ancient woodland and introduces a felling licensing system was agreed, Amendment 28 which called for all government departments with the exception of DARD to be required to apply for felling licences and Amendment 30 which sought to establish a presumption against felling in ancient woodlands were both rejected. Further Consideration Stage is scheduled for 17 May and Final Stage for 25 May. The Bill is expected to become law, following Royal Assent, in July.

Ministerial Statement – Minister of the Environment
Marine Bill: Public Consultation on Policy Proposals (13 April)
The Environment Minister provided details on public consultation on policy proposals relating to Northern Ireland’s marine environment. The consultation process is seen as an important step towards the introduction of a Northern Ireland Marine Bill to the Assembly in 2011. That Bill will ‘provide the legislative framework for a new marine planning system for Northern Ireland’s seas and will create greater provision for marine nature conservation. Moreover, it will bring us a step closer to finalising and putting in place a robust marine framework that will ensure sustainable use of our seas for generations to come’. The Minister outlined how Northern Ireland’s Marine Programme aims to deliver sustainable management and development of the seas through three interlocking pieces of legislation: the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009; the transposition of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive; and the proposed Northern Ireland Marine Bill. The first step towards a Marine Bill is consultation on the three strands outlined in the consultation paper, namely: 1) A new framework for marine planning which will: provide greater certainty for marine developers and users; maximise the social, economic and environmental value of the marine resource; and ensure sustainability.2) Proposals to reduce the regulatory burden on developers. 3) Proposals for a new national designation. The consultation closes on 9 July and can be found on the DOE website.

Ministerial Statement – Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development
North/South Ministerial Council: Aqua¬culture and Marine Sectoral Format (19 April)
The Council received a progress report on the work of the Loughs Agency and noted the importance and effectiveness of the Loughs Agency’s conservation and protection work on the fisheries of the Foyle and Carlingford areas; progress with the implementation of the agency’s marine tourism development strategy; the successful engagement with the Tourist Board and the initiation of the Riverwatch Phase 3 project; the Riverwatch outreach environmental science programme with local schools. Monitoring of fish species diversity in Lough Foyle revealed that around 60 species had been identified, some of a high conservation value. The Council approved regulations that prohibit the retention of salmon, sea trout and brown trout from certain stretches of the River Finn and River Foyle, and also approved, to July 2011, a procedure to support the Loughs Agency in dealing, through regulations, with emergencies such as pollution incidents.

Oral Answers to Questions

Minister for Regional Development
A5: Protected Sites (19 April)
The Minister outlined some of the sites of scientific interest and heritage interest that may be affected by the proposed A5 route. These include: Castletown House, which is in a part of the Sperrin area of outstanding natural beauty; the River Foyle and Tributaries special area of conservation; Harry Avery’s Castle, which is a scheduled monument; Tully Bog special area of conservation; Errigal Keerogue church and graveyard; and McKean’s Moss area of special scientific interest. The Minister added it is impossible to build a new road through open countryside without doing some environmental damage, but the onus is on the designers, developers and Roads Service to do so in a way that avoids, where possible, areas of particular environmental, scientific or heritage interest. Where it is impossible to do that, they must ensure that the highest standards are met to mitigate any adverse impact. The environmental statement will be published with the other draft statutory Orders in November of this year, and details of all environmental issues and the proposed mitigation measures will be included in that document.

Written Answers to Questions 

Minister of the Environment
Electric Cars (2 April)
The Minister stated his belief that the time is right to explore further the role which electric vehicles can play in maximising the output from renewable sources, particularly wind, while providing a flexible transport solution with no harmful emissions. His officials are therefore working alongside their counterparts in DRD to jointly lead a project to seek to establish a consortium to progress a bid for a pilot electric vehicle project in Northern Ireland. The consortium will be bidding for seed funding from the UK wide £30m “Plugged in Places” scheme which aims to install electric vehicle infrastructure in up to 6 cities or regions across the UK. The money would be available to consortia made of local authorities, businesses, electricity distributors, suppliers and other organisations in order to support the early market for electric vehicles.

Minister for Social Development
Fuel Poverty Strategy (9 April)
Minister Ritchie stated that her officials are in the final stages of drafting a fuel poverty strategy which will be presented to the Inter Departmental Group on Fuel Poverty, the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group and the Social Development Committee prior to a public consultation exercise which will last 12 weeks. The Minister expects the public consultation exercise to commence in June 2010.

Minister of the Environment
Areas of Special Scientific Interest (16 April)
The Minister revealed that NIEA is working to a target to ensure that 95% of the features underlying the designation of ASSIs are in, or approaching, favourable conservation condition by 2016. A comprehensive assessment in March 2008 of the condition of the ASSI network showed that 69% of the features on ASSIs were in or approaching favourable condition. The Minister added that NIEA is working in partnership with other Departments and NGOs, to ensure that site selection features on designated sites are in favourable condition. Through its own Management of Sensitive Sites (MOSS) scheme, NIEA funds conservation measures on ASSIs to ensure that site selection features achieve their target condition. In addition NIEA has developed a partnership arrangement with DARD to favour designated lands in the delivery of the Northern Ireland Countryside Management Scheme (NICMS). Under this scheme 8,399ha of land within ASSIs was brought under a beneficial management regime in 2009. NICMS is expected to deliver significant benefits to ASSIs for the duration of the Rural Development Programme 2007–13.

Minister for Social Development
Renewable Energy in New Build Social Housing (23 April)
Minister Ritchie stated that all new Social Housing must conform to a minimum of code level 3 in the Code for Sustainable Homes making these homes in effect 25% more energy efficient than ever before. However to incentivise Housing Associations to build to even higher standards, the Minister has made further funding available if they can build to code 4 standard, a standard that ultimately requires a greater use of renewable and more sustainable technology. The Minister has also launched a pilot project that will see 70 new homes built to the very highest levels of the Code, right up to code 5/6 in a mixed tenure scheme that will go on site later this year. This development will provide important learning for the industry as we move towards our 2016 zero carbon aspiration.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Bovine Tuberculosis and Wildlife (30 April)
The Minister stated that her Department has a rigorous TB programme in place, approved by the EU, which includes a strand to address the ‘wildlife factor’. Interventions may include improving biosecurity, as well as options for more direct intervention such as the vaccination of badgers which may be the most feasible solution in the long–term. The Minister added that research involving badger culling elsewhere presents a mixed picture of its effectiveness in reducing disease levels in cattle. Recently published results from the Randomised Badger Control Trials in England suggest that the impact in the areas where culling took place was short lived, that the perturbation of badgers led to an increase in TB in surrounding areas and that the costs were prohibitive, outweighing by two or three times the savings from fewer TB herd breakdowns. The Minister also outlined her intention to carry out a TB Biosecurity Study this year to assess what critical differences there are between infected and non–infected herds in a TB high incidence area in County Down. Consideration of both selected cattle and wildlife factors will be key elements of this Study which will help inform new biosecurity advice for farmers. Meanwhile other wildlife species are not regarded as a significant issue for TB in cattle. A Deer Survey completed in 2009 found that the prevalence of TB in deer was low at less than 2 per cent.

Assembly Business
Statutory Committees: Chairpersons And Deputy Chairpersons
Changes Were Agreed To The Assembly Statutory Committees including:
Finance & Personnel: Chair, Jennifer Mccann (SF) Deputy Chair, David Mcnarry (UUP); OFMDFM Chair, Danny Kennedy (UUP) Deputy Chair, Naomi Long (AP); Enterprise Trade & Investment: Chair, Alban Maginness (SDLP) Deputy Chair, Paul Butler (SF); Culture Arts & Leisure: Chair, Barry McElduff (SF), Deputy Chair, Declan O’Loan (SDLP); Environment:  Chair, Cathal Boylan (SF) Deputy Chair, Dominic Bradley (SDLP); Agriculture & Rural Development: Chair, Ian Paisley Jnr (DUP) Deputy Chair, Tom Elliott (UUP); Regional Development: Chair, Fred Cobain (UUP) Deputy Chair, Michelle Mcilveen (DUP); Social Development: Chair, Simon Hamilton (DUP) Deputy Chair Carál Ní Chuilín (SF).