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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 (Nov 10) 6 March 2012

By Seán Kelly, Policy Officer, NIEL

Private Members’ Business
Green New Deal (5 October)
Members debated and unanimously passed a motion:

That this Assembly notes the benefits that can be achieved through implementing the green new deal in Northern Ireland; supports the need for improved energy efficiency to reduce fuel use and meet European Union and United Kingdom carbon emissions targets; believes there is a real opportunity to create 30,000 sustainable green–collar jobs; and calls on the Executive to implement a cross–departmental strategy to ensure that the potential benefits of the green economy are realised for Northern Ireland.

Members acknowledged that the adoption of a green new deal offers the Government an opportunity to tackle the environmental, economic and social issues that face our society and that the green new deal is not purely about improving Northern Ireland’s green credentials and creating a more sustainable supply–and–demand network. It also offers the Executive a viable job– and wealth–creation opportunity that is particularly relevant in the current climate of austerity and rising unemployment. Stephen Farry pointed out however, that while members had a healthy and positive debate, it will only be meaningful if it was used as a platform from which the Assembly can move forward.

Answers to Written Questions

Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister
Sustainable Development Commission (1 October)
The Ministers revealed that OFMDFM is currently contributing £120k per annum towards the funding of the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). They added that the Executive remains committed to the principles of sustainable development and to progressing the priorities and strategic objectives set out in its new Sustainable Development Strategy. In light of DEFRA’s decision to withdraw funding from the SDC, OFMDFM are currently considering options relating to the future of the organisation. Any decision will have to be taken against the background of current spending pressure reviews faced by all Departments.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Common Agricultural Policy (1 October)
Minister Gildernew outlined DARD’s position and input to the European Commission’s proposals to reform the CAP. The EU Commission is expected to publish a Communication outlining its thinking on the future of the CAPolicy in November 2010, followed by legislative proposals in mid 2011. Upon publication of the Commission’s paper, DARD will undertake a consultation with stakeholders which will assist in the development of a detailed policy position and response. The Minister added she had already made clear that the CAP needs to be adequately funded, with the Single Farm Payment being maintained, especially given its importance to local farmers’ incomes.

Minister of the Environment
Committee on Climate Change/ Climate Change Bill (1 October)
The Minister stated that he had no current plans to request a specific report from the Committee on Climate Change on progress on meeting climate change targets in Northern Ireland and that progress on the Programme for Government (PfG) targets, including the target for a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 on 1990 levels, is monitored on a quarterly basis by OFMDFM. In August 2010 the Minister chaired the first meeting of the Executive’s Cross–Departmental Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions. This group is primarily tasked with developing an action plan by December 2010 setting out the strategic approach and actions to be taken across Departments to meet the PfG target. In response to a subsequent question (8 October 2010), Minister Poots stated that he continued to consider the matter of a Climate Change Bill for Northern Ireland. The Minister added that the UK Climate Change Act 2008 extends to Northern Ireland and given the uncertainty levels associated with the current method of calculating greenhouse gas emissions he was not fully convinced of the need for a separate Northern Ireland Climate Change Bill at this time.

Minister of Enterprise,Trade and Investment
Renewable Energy (8 October)
The Minister revealed that her Department has just completed a study into options for future incentivisation of renewable electricity in Northern Ireland, adding that the  Department must take account of (a) the impact of subsidies on electricity bills and (b) the ability of any particular incentive mechanism to deliver Northern Ireland’s overall target of 40% electricity from renewable generation by 2020. While an announcement was planned for 2010, this will however now have to wait until the Coalition Government has a settled way forward on incentivising electricity in Britain. Meanwhile DETI will shortly begin work on a full economic analysis of a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for Northern Ireland, with a view to introducing such a scheme providing it proves economically viable to do so.

Green New Deal (8 October)
The Minister was invited to outline the opportunities presented by the ‘Green Deal’ recently launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The Minister stated that DECC offers substantial opportunities to retrofit energy efficiency in a significant number of domestic and non domestic buildings, create new jobs, whilst also reducing energy bills and carbon emissions. Financing will be provided by the private sector through the establishment of Green Deal providers. Job creation potential exists for suppliers and installers of energy efficient products and the corresponding supply chain. The DECC Green Deal, which has yet to be publically consulted on, applies to GB only; similar consultation and legislative changes would be needed here to implement such a scheme.

Minister of the Environment
Waste Exemption Certificates (8 October)
The Minister was asked if he would address the anomly that allows sites without planning permission to receive waste exemption certificates. The Minister accepted and supported the principle that, where it is required, planning permission should be secured before waste exemption certificates are granted. In this context, DoE has developed a work programme to examine waste management licensing exemptions, and assess the need for change. As individual exemptions are reviewed and amended where necessary, the issue of planning permission is being addressed. However in instances where planning permission is required but has not been sought or granted, Planning Service already has the option of taking enforcement action to address the position.

Plastic Bags (8 October)
The Minister reported that in Northern Ireland we have achieved a reduction of 9.3% in the number of single use carrier bags issued by the major supermarkets between 2008/09 and 2009/10. This equates to 19 million less bags issued. He added however that we cannot be complacent and must continue our efforts to persuade people to “Get into the habit” of taking their own bags when shopping.

Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Patrols Undertaken in Lough Neagh (15 October)
The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure provided details of the number of boat patrols undertaken on Lough Neagh, the amount of illegal netting recovered and the number of resultant prosecutions in each of the last five years:

Boat Patrols
Total nets forfeited
Persons prosecuted

The Fisheries Conservancy Board was responsible for the enforcement of fisheries protection legislation until 1 June 2009, but it did not record details of every individual net seized due to the large numbers involved and the significant increase in the cost of obtaining destruction orders. Therefore the figure for total nets forfeited (seized and later subject to a destruction order) is provided.

Minister of the Environment
Dikerogammarus Villosus (15 October)
In response to what action DoE is taking to prevent the shrimp Dikerogammarus Villosus from entering our waterways, the Minister acknowledged that invasive alien species are the second biggest threat to biodiversity loss worldwide. Following on from the discovery of the ‘Killer Shrimp’ (Dikerogammarus villosus), at Grafham Water in England, DoE were notified and will continue to be kept informed of any developments by their counterparts in GB. In response to this notification NIEA issued a species alert and identification sheet around several Government Departments and other organisations. A species alert and ID sheet was also placed on the Invasive Species in Ireland website. In addition a press release was issued by my Department on 29 September 2010 warning of the threat of the ‘Killer Shrimp’. This press release outlined the need for water users to clean their boats and equipment before moving to another water body.

Minister for Regional Development
Regional Development Strategy (22 October)
The Minister revealed that the review of the Regional Development Strategy is now very well advanced. As the new RDS will be the cross cutting spatial strategy of the Executive we have been actively involved with a number of key groups to assist in the Review. These include an External Working Group; the Regional Development Committee; officials from the Strategic Investment Board and an Inter–Departmental Steering Group. The Ministerial Sub–Group overseeing the review met most recently on 23 September 2010. The Minister added that he intended to seek Executive agreement in early November for full public consultation to commence as soon as possible.

Cycling (22 October)
The Minister was asked to outline the reasons for the decrease in the cycling budget, given his commitment to the promotion of sustainable transport. In response the Minister stated that Roads Service aims to provide safer roads for vulnerable road users, including cyclists, utilising a range of measures that include road safety engineering, traffic calming and enhancement of the pedestrian and cycling network. All of which are funded from the Local Transport and Safety Measure allocation. However although there is reduced funding provision for cycle lanes and footways this year, the published Roads Service Targets do not reflect the same level of reduction. For example, in 2009/10, Roads Service’s budget was £981,000 with an associated target to provide 20 km of cycle lanes. This year with a £108,000 allocation, which is an 89% reduction, the target is to provide 12km of cycle lane, which equates to a 40% reduction. Roads Service’s Traffic Engineers conscious of the financial limitations, are implementing relatively inexpensive cycle lanes on road with ‘signs and lines’, as opposed to the construction of more expensive segregated cycle lanes. In addition Strategic Road Improvement schemes provide Active Travel facilities as part of the finished scheme. 

Minister of the Environment
Review of Public Administration (29 October)
The Minister revealed that from their formation on 1 January 2009 to 30 September 2010 £1,579,164 has been spent on support costs for the Voluntary Transition Committees. During the period 1 July to 30 September £122,246 has been spent and is included in the overall figure. From 1 April 2009 to 30 September 2010 £384,780 has been spent on costs for Change Managers. During the period 1 July to 30 September £53,459 has been spent and is included in the overall figure. The Minister added that no decision has been taken not to proceed with the Reform of Local Government and that he intended therefore putting fresh proposals to the Executive shortly on reframing the delivery timetable for the Reform Programme. Consequently the work of Change Managers, appointed to assist the transition process for the new councils, is ongoing. Over time their role has widened and become more focused on delivering an improvement, collaboration and efficiency agenda for the local government sector. As the Minister remains keen that their valuable role continues and whilst he has suspended Transition Committee funding from 31 October 2010, he has decided that funding for Change Managers should continue until 31 March 2011.

Answers to Oral Questions

Minister of the Environment
Local Government: Waste Management and Recycling (5 October)
According to the latest available published data, all district councils met their Northern Ireland landfill allowance scheme (NILAS) targets in 2008–09. Recycling targets apply to Northern Ireland as a whole but do not apply at local council level. With the household recycling rate in 2008–09 standing at 34•4%, Northern Ireland is also on track to meet the waste management strategy recycling target of 35% by 2010 and that not only can we meet the 50% recycling target by 2020, we can exceed it. The Minister added that if that is the case, perhaps we can drive down the costs of the infrastructure fund that is required for energy recovery, and instead of having to spend £200 million of capital from central government and £400 million from local government, we can drive down those costs by recycling more.

Committee Business
Clean Neighbourhoods And Environment Bill: Extension Of Committee Stage (11 October)
The Chair of the Committee for the Environment sought and received agreement for the  Committee Stage of the Clean Neighbourhoods And Environment Bill be extended to 28 January 2011. The Bill has 76 clauses and four schedules and covers many diverse areas, from alley–gating and abandoned vehicles to dogs and fly–posting.