Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 13 October 2011

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began in public session at 10.06a.m.

1. Apologies

Apologies are listed above.

2. Minutes

The minutes of the meeting on 29 September 2011 were agreed.

3. Matters Arising

The Chairperson informed members that the Department had cancelled a scheduled briefing on the synopsis of responses to the consultation on local government reform. The Chairperson also asked for members’ views on the recent announcements by the Minister, without notification to the Committee, on the planning agreement at George Best Belfast City Airport and on amendments to councilors’ allowance.

Mr Kinahan joined the meeting at 10.10a.m. 
Ms Bradley joined the meeting at 10.12a.m.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Minister stating the Committee’s disappointment with the cancellation of the briefing and with the lack of notification to the Committee on the issues above. The letter is also to ask the Minister how he intends to deal with the Committee in future.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to OFMdFM asking for more information on the recent announcement on the agreement of an 11 council model.

The Chairperson informed members that the Department had asked to move several briefings to later dates.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Permanent Secretary asking for the reasons behind the requests to move briefings.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the Wild Bird Directive.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for clarification of the type of action required to protect and manage habitats of wild birds outside Northern Ireland’s protected sites .

Agreed: That Departmental officials are invited to brief the Committee at a future meeting.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for information on the potential levels of infraction fines.

Members noted that the Department intends to publish guidance on the waste hierarchy.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on car tax facilities.

Agreed: That a Committee reply on this issue is deferred until after the Assembly debate on this issue on 24 October.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on taxi enforcement.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on access to Driver Licensing Records Regulations.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on appeals under the High Hedges Act.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a memo from the Committee for Justice seeking the Committee’s views on SL1 – The Valuation Tribunal (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 – High Hedges Tribunal and a draft Committee reply.

Agreed: That a reply is drafted and sent to the Committee for Justice.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the Planning Act.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking what legislation and incentives are currently in place to compel or encourage listed building owners to protect their property from vandalism and illegal dumping. Members would also like to know if the Department has ever considered the possibility of issuing a moratorium to restrict construction on a site that has had a listed property destroyed due to vandalism

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on simplified planning zones.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking what areas within Northern Ireland the Department had envisaged for designation as Simplified Planning Zones when they included provisions for these within the Planning Bill. Mem,bers would also like to know what action the Department is now taking, if any, to put these in place.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the Flytipping Protocol.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating that members were of the opinion that illegally dumped hazardous waste should not be dealt with by local councils but centrally through the NIEA and believe the flytipping protocol should be amended to reflect this.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Ministerial letter in relation to the planning agreement at George Best City Airport and that they had also been provided with the previous Committee’s views.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for further information on the legal advice sought by the Department in advance of lifting the restriction on seats for sale.

Agreed: That letters are sent to Belfast City Airport Watch and George Best City Airport asking for their views on his issue.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the recent suspension of a senior Departmental member of staff.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating that the Committee appreciates that it must take complaints about staff seriously whilst not becoming over cautious. The Committee would like further information on the number of suspensions there have been in the Department over the last 5 years, the length of time the staff involved in these suspensions have been off work, the cost of these suspensions to the Department, the outcomes of these suspensions and the grades of those involved in each case. The letter is also to ask when the Department is expected to come to a decision in relation to the case involving the currently suspended member of staff.

Mr Clarke joined the meeting at 11.02a.m.

Members noted a reply from the Minister for Health in relation to gorse fires.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a note of a meeting the Chairperson and several members held with the Ulster Farmers’ Union.

Agreed: That a copy of the note of the meeting is forwarded to the Department for comment on the action points.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply in relation to the Committee for Social Development’s Fuel Poverty Event.

Agreed: That the reply is sent to the Committee for Social Development suggesting that the Carbon Trust and Energy Savings Trust are added to the stakeholder list.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the fees for domestic consent applications under the Water (Northern Ireland) Order.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development asking for information on a joint grant funding opportunity under the Rural Development Programme in relation to septic tanks.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a copy of the first quarterly development management statistical bulletin.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating the Committee’s disappointment that none of the 3 PSA targets were met and that only 2 out of the 4 business plan targets in this quarter were met. The letter is also to ask for information on the reasons for the delays in meeting these targets.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating stating members’ concern over the inconsistency there appears to be in applying PPS18 and asking for officials to brief on this issue at a future Committee meeting.

8. Tyre Recovery Association briefing on Committee inquiry into used tyre disposal

Representatives from the Tyre Recovery Association briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions as part of the inquiry into tyre disposal.

The main areas of discussion were traceability, regulations, cost of disposal and illegal dumping.

Members noted a Departmental reply to queries on staffing levels in the Environmental Crime Unit.

Members noted a reply from the project leader of the Poole Bay artificial reef project.

The Chairperson provided members with a brief outline of correspondence received from OM Tyre Recycling in relation to problems with NIEA which had resulted in the company’s licence being suspended.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating members’ concern that this issue was sending out a negative message to the recycling industry and could lead to lack of investment and/or the necessary capacity in the sector and might also threaten valuable rural jobs. The letter is also to ask the Department to be more proactive in assisting companies that are striving for compliance.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety asking for an indication of any respiratory problems in and around periods when bonfires are lit.

9. Belfast City Council briefing on Committee inquiry into used tyre disposal

Officials from Belfast City Council briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions as part of the inquiry into tyre disposal.

The main areas of discussion were illegal disposal, enforcement and bonfires.

4. Proposals for secondary legislation

SL1 – Removal of blanket ban on insulin treated diabetics holding taxi driver licences.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for more information on the specific criteria that will be applied in relation to issuing a taxi licence to insulin dependent diabetics.

SL1 – The Waste Management Licensing (Landspreading Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for more information on the treatment that will be required on exempted waste material before being spread over land. The letter is also to note a member’s concern about the

apparent practice in the Omagh area of untreated blood being spread on land directly from an abattoir after dark and asking for reassurance that these regulations will be adequately enforced.

Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 11.59a.m.

SL1 – Nitrates Action Programme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking what controls are in place in relation to the length of time a chicken litter heap is allowed to remain in a field and what restrictions are required to keep animals away from heaps. The letter is also to ask for information on any alternative options to dealing with chicken litter that have been considered.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for an indication of when it will issue a response to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee’s request for a progress report on the Rose Energy planning application.

SL1 – Graduated Fixed Penalty, Financial Penalty Deposit and Immobilisation Scheme (GFP&DS) – Phase 3.

Agreed: That the Committee is content for the Department to proceed with the policy.

SL1 – Proposed Amendments to The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations (NI) 1996 and to the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981 to Implement Requirements of the 3 rd Directive on Driving Licences.

Agreed: That the Committee is content for the Department to proceed with the policy.

5. Statutory Rules

SR 2011/326 – Local Government (Capital Finance and Accounting) Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and agreed: That the Committee for the Environment has considered SR 2011/326 - Local Government (Capital Finance and Accounting) Regulations (NI) 2011 and has no objection to the rule subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report.

Members noted SR 2011/306 – The Local Government Finance (2011 Act) (Commencement) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011

SR 2011/328 – The Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and agreed: That the Committee for the Environment has considered SR 2011/328 - The Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment No 3) Regulations (NI) 2011 and has no objection to the rule subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report.SR 2011/329 – The Road Vehicles Lighting (Amendment No. 3) Regulations (NI) 2011.

Question put and agreed: That the Committee for the Environment has considered SR 2011/329 - The Road Vehicles Lighting (Amendment No. 3) Regulations (NI) 2011 and has no objection to the rule subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report.

Members noted SR 2011/312 – Commencement Order of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) (2011 Act) (Commencement No. 1) Order (NI) 2011.

6. Consultations

Consultation on amendment to the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations (NI) 2012.

Agreed: That a copy of the synopsis of responses is requested.

Mr Hamilton rejoined the meeting at 12.50a.m.

7. Departmental updates

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental update on post project evaluations.

Agreed: That Assembly Research and Information Service is asked to provide information on prosecutions of tyre retailers in the UK.

Mr Dallat left the meeting at 12.52p.m.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental update on Article 31 planning applications and a comparison with the last Departmental update.

Agreed: That further discussion on this issue is deferred to the meeting on 20 October 2011.

10. Correspondence

Copy of Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) response to DfT’s scoping document – Sustainable Aviation Framework.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department for Regional Development and the Department for the Environment requesting information on what response it has made to the consultation.

Correspondence from Mr Patsy McGlone MLA regarding the All Party Working Group and issues relating to the construction industry.

Agreed: That the Committee Secretariat drafts a response to Mr McGlone.

Letter from Farmers for Action requesting the opportunity to brief the Committee.

Agreed: That a sub group meeting is arranged for a future date.

Departmental response to the Social Development Committee’s request in relation to its event on fuel poverty.

Agreed: That the response is forwarded to the Social Development Committee.

Additional correspondence from Mr D McConaghy regarding Giant’s Causeway and the proposed Runkerry development.

Agreed: That a copy of the correspondence is sent to the Department reiterating the previous request that the Committee is copied into any response forwarded to Mr McConaghy.

Email regarding the Energy Saving Trust’s ‘Energy Saving Week’.

Agreed: Members were content for the Chairperson to support the campaign.

Email from the Warringstown Objectors.

Agreed: That the correspondence is forwarded to the Department for comment and that a letter is sent to the Warringstown Objectors reiterating the Committee’s position.

Correspondence from Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in relation to recent Departmental press release on slurry spreading.

Agreed: That a copy of the correspondence is forwarded to the Department for comment.

Members noted the following correspondence:

Letter detailing the range of services available from the Met Office.

Copy of Downpatrick & District Soroptimists pamphlet – “How big is your carbon footprint”.

October issue of Irish Environment.

Copy of the Ulster Farmers’ Union guide – Agricultural Vehicles on the Road.

Copy of NIIRTA News autumn edition.

Invitation to the Committee for Finance and Personnel Overview of the Public Expenditure System.

13. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 20 October at 10.00a.m.in the Senate Chamber.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.19p.m.

Anna Lo MLA
Chairperson, Committee for the Environment
20 October 2011

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