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Hedge Planting

Sunday 4th March
Gilford Castle, Gilford Village, Co–Armagh
Free

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Woodland Management – Saintfield Estate

Sunday 18th March
Saintfield Estate, Saintfield
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The Rivers Trust Spring Conference 2018

Wednesday 21st March
Iveagh House, Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin
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Assembly News (July 2010) 6 March 2012

By Seán Kelly, Policy Officer, NIEL

Executive Committee Business
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports2009/100622.htm#g
Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill: Consideration Stage (22 June)
During the Consideration stage of the Bill, the Assembly agreed a number of amendments, including: a strengthening of the new biodiversity duty, enhanced reporting requirements and imposition of related duties on all public bodies; new protection for the nests of Osprey, White Tailed Sea Eagle, Red Kite, Barn Owl and Peregrine; added protection for Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Whinchat; new protection for Basking Sharks as well as Common and Grey Seals; Chinese Water Deer, Roe Deer have been added to the list of invasive species for which it is an offence to release or allow them to escape into the wild. Although the Assembly decided to regulate rather than ban the use of snares (meaning that the UK and Ireland would remain two of the only five countries in the EU to allow the use of snares), they did however vote for a ban on hare coursing in Northern Ireland. The Bill will also introduce: larger fines and custodial sentences for persistent offenders of wildlife crime; additional investigation and enforcement powers for police to tackle wildlife crime and; new offences for reckless damage or disturbance to protected birds, animals and their habitats, including those in Areas of Special Scientific Interest. The Bill will now proceed to its Further Consideration Stage which is likely to take place in Autumn 2010.

Executive Committee Business
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports2009/100628.htm#k
Programme For Government (PfG) Delivery Reports (28 June)
First Minister Peter Robinson listed the main findings from the first PfG Delivery Reports. In relation to Priority 3 which is to protect and enhance our environment, five of the 11 key goals and commitments, or 45%, assessed either as being completed or on track for completion. Areas of progress include ensuring that 12% of our electricity is generated from indigenous renewable sources by 2010, enabling up to 4,700 farmers to comply with the Nitrates Directive by 2009, and delivering a new sewerage project for central Belfast by 2010. Overall a colour–coded rating system was used to reflect progress: red in cases where there is a risk to delivery; amber where there is a lack of robust information or where progress has been slow; targets that have been achieved or are broadly on course to be achieved within the planned time frame are coloured green or amber–green. In response the Chair of the Environment Committee stated the position for the areas for which DoE has lead responsibility/ involvement: in terms of PSA 22 (which deals with protecting our environment and reducing our carbon footprint), in June 2009, of the 15 indicators, only seven were categorised as green; three were described as green/amber, four indicators were deemed amber (greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable development action plan, key air pollutants, reform of planning) and one was red (due to delays regarding the northern area plan preventing production of a suite of development plans). In June 2009, DoE also advised the Committee that overarching commitment to reduce landfill significantly by creating new waste treatment facilities at council level was also considered to be in the red category. The Chair stated that since June 2009 the situation appears to have deteriorated. Now, instead of seven indicators identified as green, there are only six. Where there was one red indicator, there are now two. The Chair also added that the failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the set targets was due to the many variables and contributory policies which make it difficult to identify a line of accountability for the overall target. The Committee accepted that there is a limit to what the DoE can do in an isolated position on issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reiterated the need for collective responsibility to be taken on cross–cutting issues. Finally, the Committee stated its concern in relation to the monitoring of PSAs in that it that is largely a self–monitoring system with no independent assessment of actual delivery of outcome.

Executive Committee Business
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports2009/100629.htm#a
Forestry Bill: Royal Assent
The Speaker announced that the Forestry Bill has received Royal Assent. The Forestry Act (Northern Ireland) 2010 became law on 28 June 2010.

Executive Committee Business
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports2009/100629.htm#f
Transport Bill: Second Stage (29 June)
Members discussed and agreed the Second Stage of the Transport Bill. The aim of the public transport reform programme is to create efficient, effective and sustainable public transport services that contribute to the Executive’s transportation, environmental, social inclusion and equality objectives, while supporting the development of the wider economy. The Bill is designed to ensure the provision of a high–quality, integrated public transport system that will put greater focus on delivering efficient, affordable services that are responsive to local customer needs.

Executive Committee Business
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports2009/100630.htm#c
Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill: Second Stage (30 June)
The Minister sought and gained agreement for the passing of the Second Stage of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill.  This comprehensive Bill comprised of 76 clauses and four schedules, 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. DoE considers the Bill to be cost–neutral and that the revenue from fixed penalty notices will return to local councils. The Bill also proposes increasing the maximum penalty for certain pollution offences.

Executive Committee Business
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports2009/100630.htm#d
Housing (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill: Second Stage (30 June)
Members debated and agreed the Second Stage of the Housing Bill. Contained within the Bill are measures dealing with fuel poverty.  The Bill will allow the Housing Executive to broker energy at a discounted price for social housing tenants which could also benefit other energy consumers by encouraging new entrants to the domestic energy market. In addition, the Bill will provide district councils with powers to promote energy efficiency in residential accommodation in their district.


Answers to Written Questions

Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/qanda/2007mandate/writtenans/2009/100604.htm#6
Renewable Energy Projects (4 June)
The Minister revealed that DETI has 9.5 full time equivalent staff working on sustainable energy policy covering renewable electricity, renewable heat, energy efficiency and grid development. DETI’s Sustainable Energy branch has a budget of £2.07million for the year 2010/11 (98% of which will be from EU sources. This funding is primarily used to assist policy development in relation to sustainable energy. Invest NI has no specific ring–fenced budget or staff for renewable energy projects as its support to this area cuts across a range of the agency’s operational activities. As such, the agency’s total budget for renewable energy projects during 2009/10 was £6.58 million and for 2010/11, a further £6.56 million has been allocated. In response to a subsequent question the Minister stated that DETI is currently working with the Irish and Scottish Governments on a feasibility study for an undersea grid to transmit marine renewable energy, as well as research into production of 3rd generation bio–fuels from marine seaweeds and algae.

Department of the Environment
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/qanda/2007mandate/writtenans/2009/100611.htm#7
Water Quality Sampling (11 June)
The Minister stated that NIEA carries out water quality sampling at approximately 500 river sites for chemical analysis and 530 river sites for biological analysis across NI. Chemical monitoring is carried out on a monthly basis for a variety of general chemical quality elements including pH, Ammonia and Dissolved Oxygen. In addition, since 2008, under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), a rolling programme, involving monthly samples being taken for one year in every six, has been in place for the monitoring of specific polluting substances. Biological water quality sampling is carried out, usually in spring and autumn, and includes monitoring of aquatic insects and plants. Determinands such as fish and river structure are also monitored as part of the rolling programme. Analysis for the four years from 2004–2007 has shown that the overall trend is an improvement in river water quality both in terms of chemical and biological classification. From 2008 WFD data will be used as a baseline for subsequent years to measure whether or not water quality continues to improve. WFD Classification data for 2009 is not yet available. WFD data is not comparable with the results for 2004 – 2007, as these were produced under a significantly different classification system. In response to a subsequent question the Minister stated NIEA currently prosecutes an average of 60 suspected polluters each year, resulting in successful convictions in over 90% of cases taken before the Courts with fines now averaging £2,050. The Minister added that there has been a significant decline in water pollution incidents in NI, the numbers of which have fallen by approximately 40% since the mid–1990s.

EU Legislation on Invasive Non–native Species (18 June)
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/qanda/2007mandate/writtenans/2009/100618.htm#7
Minister Poots revealed that the European Commission plans to develop an EU strategy on Invasive Alien Species (IAS), under the framework of a broader EU Biodiversity Strategy, by mid 2011. This strategy will aim to protect biodiversity recognising, amongst other things, the economic threat posed by IAS. The Commission has not indicated any timeframe for legislation. In response to a subsequent question (25 June) the Minister stated that although the full cost of dealing with IAS in NI is unknown, the total estimated cost to date of direct control of invasive species carried out by NIEA, on the properties it owns and manages, plus research carried out on invasive species by NIEA, has been £740,000. The Invasive Species Ireland Project meanwhile has a target to assess the socio–economic costs and biodiversity damage caused by invasive species across a wide range of agricultural and natural processes, including aquaculture, water bodies and forestry, and will suggest programmes of action to ameliorate the threats from established and potential future invasive species.

Water Pollution (18 June)
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/qanda/2007mandate/writtenans/2009/100618.htm#7
In relation to what plans and resources there are to ensure that local stakeholders are trained to a standard useful to the Department in a pollution incident, the Minister stated that NIEA has developed a partnership agreement with the Association of Rivers Trusts, the aim of which is to improve water quality through the promotion of water quality projects and existing initiatives such as the pollution hotline. Plans are also underway for NIEA to provide support to the establishment to an Anglers Monitoring Initiative pilot project this year. This partnership initiative, aims within available resources, to work with volunteers on how to monitor the health of their local river by keeping an eye on the populations of riverflies such as the mayfly and stonefly. In the longer term NIEA is considering the issues surrounding the specific training of local stakeholders to enable them to assist NIEA during a pollution incident. Consideration is currently being given to the health and safety and legal issues involved, with the aim being to run a trial in due course, possibly in the Six Mile Water catchment.

Demolition of Listed Buildings (25 June)
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/qanda/2007mandate/writtenans/2009/100625.htm#7
The Minister stated revealed that, in the last 5 years, DoE has investigated 146 cases involving alleged unauthorised works to listed buildings. Thirteen 13 cases alleged the unauthorised demolition of listed buildings. Of these, 2 cases are ongoing. Eleven have been concluded, 5 of which proceeded to formal summons and subsequent court action. The Minister added that the imposition of fines is a matter for the courts and not DoE. The location, grade of listing and fine imposed are set out in the table below.

Location

Grade of Listing

Fine Imposed

Demolition of a listed building at 31 The Square, Moy

B1

£16,000

Unauthorised demolition of a Listed Building at 166 Malone Road, Belfast

B1

Owner £150 and contractor £200

Demolition of listed building – Corick House, 20, Corick Road, Clougher

B2

£11,000

Unauthorised works to listed building at 69 – 75 Main Street Fivemiletown

Building Preservation Notice

£18,500

Unauthorised demolition of listed building at 91 Dromore Road, Waringstown.

B1

Initially £50,000 (2 owners, £15,000 each and contractor £20,000). The fine imposed was later reduced on appeal to £1,100 (2 owners, £500 each and contractor £100)

Agencies and Bodies Funded by DoE (2 July)
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/qanda/2007mandate/writtenans/2009/100702.htm#7

The Minister provided details of the level of funding provided to NGOs in each of the last two years as well the funding planned for 2010–11. The Minister revealed that the totals allocated as: £5,521,701 (2008–09); £4,149,420 (2009–10); and the planned funding for 2010–11 as £2,912,000.

Answers to Oral Questions

Minister of the Environment
http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports2009/100614.htm#a4
Budget (14 June)
The Minister revealed that following the 2010–11 revised spending plans DoE’s current and capital budgets for 2010–11 are £129·6 million and £182·4 million, respectively. Practically all the capital budget relates to the strategic waste infrastructure fund. As part of the June monitoring round, officials have requested that £173·6 million be re–profiled into future years. Furthermore, a bid was included in the June monitoring submission to DFP for £5 million capital funding in 2010 to support local government with the cost of the new recycling and composting infrastructure. The Minister added that the DoE faces a number of significant pressures in its current budget that total in excess of £16 million, which is more than 12·5% of the opening current budget. DoE’s June monitoring submission to DFP, therefore, also includes a number of bids to cover those and other current budgetary pressures. In parallel, officials are progressing internal reviews of the Planning Service and of the delivery of corporate services functions in an attempt to realise savings in the financial year. DoE meanwhile will continue to look at other sources of income for the Planning Service as a means of closing the financial gap.  

NI Assembly Summer Recess
The Northern Ireland Assembly will take its Summer Recess and will be closed from 3 July 2010 to 5 September 2010.