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Mar 2018 right left


Hedge Planting

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

Belfast Festival of Learning

Monday 5th March
Various, see programme for details


Woodland Management – Saintfield Estate

Sunday 18th March
Saintfield Estate, Saintfield


The Rivers Trust Spring Conference 2018

Wednesday 21st March
Iveagh House, Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin


NI Allotment and Community Garden Forum

Saturday 24th March
MACCA Centre, Omagh

Easter Fun At Monkstown Wood

Saturday 24th March
Monkstown Wood, Newtownabbey
See website for details


Outdoor Recreation & Your Community

Tuesday 27th March
An Creagán Centre, County Tyrone

EU Funding for Sustainable Development – Project Ideas Lab

Wednesday 28th March
Sustainable NI, Bradford Court, Upper Galwally, Belfast BT8 6RB


Assembly News (May 10) 6 March 2012

By Seán Kelly, Policy Officer, NIEL

Executive Committee Business
Forestry Bill: Final Stage (25 May)
Following discussion, the Forestry Bill (details of which were outlined in the May edition of re:Source) passed its final stage and now awaits Royal Assent in July. Elements of the new legislation will bring NI into line with the rest of the UK and recognises the wider benefits of forestry, such as its potential contribution towards climate change mitigation, improving public health and protecting wildlife. Among other measures to be introduced are felling licenses to control felling of woodland, the requirement for DARD to provide and maintain a register of woodlands and recognition of the importance of protecting ancient woodland.

Ministerial Statement
PPS 21: Sustainable Development in the Countryside (1 June)
Minister Poots announced the publication of PPS 21 (replacing Draft PPS 21) which provides the planning policy context for deciding planning applications in rural areas. The Minister revealed a number of changes from Draft PPS 21, including:  defining a ribbon as a minimum of three rather than six buildings; provision for the rounding–off or consolidation of development clusters, namely, existing clusters of at least four buildings that have developed around focal points; with respect to dwellings on farms, as it may not always be possible or practicable to build a new dwelling in close proximity to existing farm buildings, the revised policy will allow for an alternative site where it can be demonstrated that there are health and safety issues or that the applicant has genuine plans for business expansion; the revised policy also provides definitions and clarifications of previously unclear terms such as “curtilage”, “active farm” and “a substantial and built–up frontage” and makes it clear that non–listed vernacular buildings should be retained if they make a “contribution to the heritage, appearance or character of the locality”; in addition, PPS 21 makes it explicit that a building that is retained as part of a replacement development will not be eligible for replacement again. However, the Minister has invited the Executive subcommittee to continue to work with him on the issue of non–farming rural dwellers and the Executive will bring forward an addendum to PPS 21 to further address the issue with their policy proposals being subject to additional public consultation.

Private Members Business (4 May)
Tidy Northern Ireland Day
Members debated and approved a motion tabled by Danny Kinahan that:
This Assembly calls on the Minister of the Environment to sponsor a Tidy Northern Ireland Day, and to work with councils to encourage local communities across Northern Ireland to get actively involved in tackling litter and improving their local areas. The motion urged the Minister to take a lead in enabling greater community involvement in addressing the problem of litter. Members felt that such a day would complement the introduction of the draft Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill. During the debate members raised the issue of the introduction of a plastic bag ban for this region as well as looking at aspects of legislation on packaging, particularly in respect of plastics, over which the Assembly has devolved responsibility. In response, while the Minister reiterated his full support for any initiative that would help to clean up Northern Ireland, the economic position is such that he did not have the funds available to sponsor the initiative outlined in the motion. The Minister did however intend to apply his resources to the development of the draft Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill which will strengthen the law available to district councils to deal not only with litter, but with a wide range of other environmental problems. 

Answers to Oral Questions

Minister of the Environment
DOE: Legislative Programme (11 May)
Minister Poots stated that his Department has four Bills going through the Assembly: the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill; the Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill; the Local Government (Finance) Bill; and the High Hedges Bill. He also plans to bring three further Bills to the Assembly before the end of the current mandate: a planning reform Bill, a local government reorganisation Bill and the draft Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill.  DoE also has an extensive programme of subordinate legislation that will be made during this mandate.

Answers to Written Questions

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Incidences of Bovine Tuberculosis (7 May)
In response to whether DARD was on track to meet its PfG target to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis, the Minister stated that a 27% reduction in TB incidence, would require the incidence of TB in herds to be reduced to 3.90% by 31 March 2011. The current incidence is 5.54% (to the end of February 2010) and although bovine TB is a disease subject to fluctuations in incidence, it is unlikely this aspect of target will now be met. The Minister added that this is particularly the case as changes in the programme necessary to achieve EU agreement to an EU NI TB Eradication Plan 2010 will result in the re–classification of animals as reactors that give an inconclusive result to a second consecutive TB test. The initial effect of this is expected to be an increase in the incidence of TB.

Minister for Regional Development
NI Water Investment to meet European Standards (7 May)

The Minister revealed that NIW estimates capital investment in the region of £750 million will be required over the next 10 years, and £900 million over the subsequent 10 years, to meet European Union standards for water and wastewater treatment. This includes investment to maintain and, where necessary, achieve current EU standards and to comply with future EU standards which are known about, but excludes the capital cost of maintaining the existing assets, providing enhanced service levels for customers or extending the water and sewerage systems to cater for increases in demand resulting from development growth. In addition, it is not yet known what impact some of the more recently introduced EU standards, such as the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive, will have on the cost of providing water and wastewater services.

Minister of the Environment
Planning Service (21 May)
The Minister explained that as Planning Service (PS) is currently experiencing a budgetary shortfall of just over £8m, mainly due to a significant reduction in planning fee income, it is seeking to identify cost reduction measures which will help it to align staffing levels and costs more closely with work demands and revenue. The Minister anticipates that the redeployment of 271 staff from the PS will be necessary to deliver the required scale of cost reductions. Current plans are that the Civil Service will be able to manage the workforce reductions in the PS through the redeployment of surplus staff either to other suitable posts in the DOE or in another NICS Department. PS will reorganise to live within its budget and reprioritise resources to ensure the impact from the reduction in staff is minimised and key services to customers can be maintained. The Minister added he would ensure that the DoE makes the appropriate representations to DFP for additional in year funding at the June Monitoring round. Also DoE has initiated a fundamental review of the structure of the fees charged for planning services with the aim of ensuring that the fees charges for specific chargeable services are broadly consistent with the costs of providing those services.

Minister of the Environment
Illegal Dumping (28 May)
The Minister revealed NIEA’s Environmental Crime Unit had overseen 356 successful prosecutions for illegal dumping between 2005 and 2009 with associated fines of £1.02M.  The majority of convictions are made up of a number of elements of unlicensed activity, namely transporting, treating or storing, and depositing the waste, and causing harm to human health or the environment. The Table below outlines the number of prosecutions and associated fines for each of the years.

Year    No. of illegal waste prosecutions    Value of fines (£)

2009    39     149,500
2008    73     177,350
2007    68     276,050
2006   116   305,650
2005    60     111,670

Committee Business (10 May)
Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill: Extension of Committee Stage
The Chair of the Committee for the Environment sought and gained approval for the extension of the Committee Stage of the Waste and Contaminated Land Bill to 5 November 2010.

Speakers Business
Ministerial Appointment (24 May)
Alex Attwood has replaced Margaret Ritchie as Minister for Social Development.

Assembly Business
Committee for the Environment (24 May)
Mr Patsy McGlone has replaced Dominic Bradley as Deputy Chairperson of Environment Committee.

Committee Business
Statutory Committee Membership (24 May)
The SDLP announced a number of changes to their Statutory Committee Membership. These included: Thomas Burns replaces P J Bradley on the CAL Committee; Dolores Kelly replaces Alex Attwood on the OFMDFM Committee; Conall McDevitt replaces Tommy Gallagher on the RD Committee; and Tommy Gallagher replace Mr Thomas Burns as a member of the Committee for Social Development.