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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 (Dec 10) 6 March 2012

By Seán Kelly, Policy Officer, NIEL

Executive Committee Business

Ministerial Statement

Local Government Reform and Planning Reform Programmes
The Environment Minister outlined his proposals for the reorganisation of local government, as well as his plans for a fundamental overhaul of the planning system. The five key aspects of his proposals for the reorganisation of local government are: the introduction of governance arrangements to ensure that councils operate to high standards, pursue equality and fairness within a framework of checks and balances and that there is openness and transparency in how they conduct their business; introduction of a new ethical standards regime for local government; development of a new council–led, statute–based community planning process including the introduction of a new power of well–being; introduction of a new service delivery and performance improvement framework involving a revised, more expansive statutory duty for councils to secure best value and continually improve the services and; creation of a partnership panel to formalise relationships between the Executive and district councils to consider strategic issues collectively. Full details of these reform and modernisation proposals are set out in the consultation document.

The Minister also outlined his plans to introduce a Planning Bill to strengthen local democracy by devolving planning powers to the 11 new councils and putting locally elected politicians at the heart of the local decision–making. Councils will be the planning authorities, responsible for drawing up their own development plans and making the vast majority of planning decisions. The 11 new councils will be able to use the new local development plans to provide a vision of how where development should take place what form it should take. The Minister added that the opportunity to develop appropriate linkages with the proposed community planning responsibilities should not be missed. By April 2011, Planning Service functions and staff responsible for them will be absorbed into the core of DOE and will no longer operate as an agency. These functions will be taken forward by two divisions. Local Planning Operations Division will be responsible for the Development Plan and Development Management functions which will in time transfer to local government. Strategic Planning Operations Division will take forward the responsibilities which will remain with the Department. The existing six Divisional Planning Offices will be streamlined to five Area Planning Offices.  A pilot programme will be put in place to test the working arrangements for the delivery of planning functions by the new councils before they are rolled out across the new council areas.

Ministerial Statement

North/South Ministerial Council Environment Sectoral Format (8 November)
At the eleventh meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in environment sectoral format held on 20th October 2010, the Council received a presentation on environmental research by the NIEA and the EPA. Ministers welcomed proposed actions in: exploration of mechanisms to align/co–fund ongoing work; research into priority areas; data management and sharing of joint working and knowledge between regulators and researchers; and the development of an application for a joint project. The Northern Ireland’s central statistics and research branch, on behalf of the NIEA and the EPA, has commenced work to develop a common set of environmental indicators and the EPA and NIEA are also working together to access funding for environmental research. Ministers received a report on the progress of the repatriation of illegally dumped waste and an update on the Waste Framework Directive. The Council welcomed the publication of River Basin Management Plans and heard that a North/South working group on water quality will oversee co–ordinated implementation of the plans.  In response to a follow–up question on waste the Minister stated that he believes it is essential that we have energy from waste but his ‘notion’ at this point is that Northern Ireland has too small a population to go down the route of incineration; however, he remained open to the suggestion. The Minister also stated said that incinerators need a lot of material to keep them going, and in some senses incineration can, therefore, encourage the production of waste. Nonetheless, I believe that it is a proven and safe technology.

North/South Ministerial Council: Transport Sectoral Format (9 November)
At the ninth meeting of the NSMC in transport sectoral format, held on 20 October 2010, Ministers noted: the continued promotion, through the National Sustainable Transport Office and the Travelwise initiative, of walking, cycling, public transport and car–sharing to businesses by commuters and to schools; welcomed the success of the all–island bike week 2010; the success of the cross–border challenge, promoted by Travelwise and An Taisce’s Green–Schools travel programme; welcomed the continued development and success of the car–sharing scheme for the north–west region. The Minister also welcomed the ongoing co–operation and advice from the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) to assist DOE and DRD in submitting a bid to the Department of Transport’s Plugged In Places initiative, which provides funding for electrical vehicles infrastructure. A key aspect of the DOE/DRD bid is the potential to link plans in both jurisdictions. The Minister added that the bid for the Plugged In Places initiative was submitted on 29 October and is supported by a diverse consortium, including local councils and representatives of the energy, motor and IT industries.  The objective is to create a network of connection points so that people can avail themselves of that network when they are travelling throughout the island.

Committee Business

Strategic Energy Framework (16 November)
The Chair of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment proposed that:

This Assembly notes the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s strategic energy framework which is intended to establish the direction for Northern Ireland energy policy up to 2020.

The framework has been developed around four key goals: the building of competitive markets; ensuring security of supply; enhancement and sustainability; and developing our energy infrastructure.  DETI has set a target of 40% of electricity for renewable energy by 2020. Grid infrastructure development is required to meet that target and to provide a means of getting the renewable electricity generated onto the grid. A smart grid will also contribute to improving energy efficiency and, ultimately, reducing energy use and cost. Members heard that not having the proposed North/South interconnector in place is costing consumers between £18 million and £20 million a year, and of the need to make it more affordable for renewable electricity generators to get their electricity on to the grid. The Chairperson also noted that while the strategic energy framework takes us up to 2020, a number of groups that gave evidence to the Committee’s inquiry stated that action is needed now to secure our energy future up to 2050. The Minister urged those involved in energy production and supply to increase their communication with the public, as public perception about renewables is one of the areas that causes her concern stating that we need to explain to people why we need more renewable energy installations of every kind and why we will need more of the associated grid infrastructure. The Minister added that Government will play its part and the Executive will shortly consider the issue of a more joined–up approach to sustainable energy messaging across government.

Written Answers to Questions

Minister for Regional Development
Review of Regional Transportation Strategy (19 Nov)
The Minister revealed that DRD had received received 37 responses to the Discussion document on the review of the existing Regional Transportation Strategy issued in December 2009 in order to generate discussion and debate on the future for transportation here. Ten of these 37 responses featured either directly or indirectly the differential expenditure between roads and public transport. Other views identified challenges around the need for behavioural change, addressing climate change and transport emissions, the availability of funding generally and the affordability of public transport particularly in rural areas.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Rural White Paper (26 November)
The Minister stated that the Rural White Paper Stakeholder Advisory Group completed its work earlier this year following which its recommendations were formally considered by DARD and the other Departments with responsibility for rural issues. DARD is continuing to engage with other Departments with a view to identifying realistic and meaningful actions for inclusion in the Rural White Paper. The Minister also discussed the development of the Rural White Paper with Minister Carey at the North/South Ministerial Council meeting in Dublin in November and is also currently undertaking a series of bi–lateral meetings with some of her Ministerial colleagues in the Executive. The Minister reaffirmed her commitment to work towards issuing a draft Rural White Paper for consultation by 31 March 2011.

Floods Directive (26 November)
The Minister stated that DARD Rivers Agency is the competent authority for the implementation of the Floods Directive and in order to complete the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment has gathered a large amount of data from many local sources. Information available within the Agency has been collected with details from NI Water, Roads Service, NIEA and all relevant key infrastructure stakeholders. This information is currently being analysed to produce a draft list of significant risk areas which will be made public early in the next financial year. All interested parties and in particular those with local knowledge will have the opportunity to provide comments on the draft list once it is published. Any new information will all be carefully considered before a final list of areas at significant risk is produced.

Oral Answers to Questions

Enterprise, Trade and Investment
Lignite Prospecting: North Antrim (8 November)
The Minister confirmed that while the moratorium on mineral prospecting licences for lignite expired on 25 October 2010, she proposes to extend the moratorium for a further three years and that as the Strategic Energy Framework for Northern Ireland 2010, states that DETI will maintain a watching brief on the future role of lignite, this extension is consistent with that policy.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Woodland Targets (22 November)
Although the PfG target is to increase woodland cover by 1,650 hectares by March 2011, the Minister revealed that up to the end of this year, 653 hectares of new woodland will have been created. It is now unlikely that the target will be achieved by March 2011. However, since November 2009, when the Minister announced increases in grant rates of up to 30% there has been a steep rise in the area of woodland creation applied for. In fact, when compared with the amount applied for during the same period last year, it was 70% higher.

Minister of the Environment
Local Government: Recycling (30 November)
While Northern Ireland is on track to meet the waste management strategy recycling target of 35% by 2010 there is an issue with councils’ varying success in achieving that target. The Minister explained that under the Northern Ireland Landfill Allowance Scheme (NILAS) regulations, an essential element of the DoE strategy is to meet the obligations of the EU landfill directive. If there were substantial slippage in that infrastructure programme, any fine accruing to the United Kingdom as a whole because of Northern Ireland’s non–compliance would be deducted from the Northern Ireland block. That fine would then be passed on to the councils in the defaulting waste management groups. Obviously, if particular councils in a group are not performing as part of the waste management group system, all the councils in that group could be hit with a fine. It is, therefore, important that those waste management groups are the driving force in ensuring that those targets are met, otherwise a taxation burden, from which no benefits can be derived, will be placed on the public.

Private Members’ Business

Protection of Quarry and Construction Industries (15 November)
Members discussed and unanimously supported a motion:
That this Assembly, while noting the Treasury’s commitment to introduce a replacement for the current aggregates levy credit scheme from April 2011, expresses its concern over the decision to end Northern Ireland’s 80 per cent derogation on 1 December 2010; and calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to take all possible steps, including working at Treasury and EU level, to protect the quarry industry, the construction industry and Northern Ireland’s wider economy against the implications of this decision and the decision of the EU General Court.

Members agreed that the scheme brought important benefits, not least in the protection of jobs and the environment. Under the scheme, quarry owners agreed that they would work together with the DoE to tackle problems such as noise, dust and water pollution at quarry sites.  To be considered for the relief, Northern Ireland firms need to formally enter into, and comply with, negotiated agreements with the UK Government committing them to a series of environmentally friendly schemes for the duration of that relief with quarries being subject to annual environment audits. The environmental audit that is used on each site has a ranking system of one to five for each issue, with one and two being non–compliant, and three to five showing compliance at or above defined standards. DoE records show that, since the scheme was introduced, ongoing work with the operators has reduced non–compliance scores by 98% and that there has been a corresponding 66•5% increase in the top scores of four and five.

Hunting Bill: First Stage (16 November)
Brian Wilson introduced the Hunting Bill which is a Bill to make provision about hunting wild mammals with dogs. The Bill passed First Stage and will be put on the list of future business until a date for its Second Stage is determined.

Single Use Plastic Bags Bill: First Stage (6 December)
Daithi McKay: Introduced the Single Use Plastic Bags Bill, which is a Bill to impose a levy on suppliers of single use plastic bags; to provide for the application of levy receipts; and for connected purposes. The Bill passed First Stage and will be put on the list of future business until a date for its Second Stage is determined.