Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Thursday, 14 March 2013

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began in public session at 10:11am.

1. Apologies

Apologies are listed above.

2. Minutes

The minutes of the meeting on 28 February 2013 were agreed.

3. Chairperson's business

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with an invitation to visit the Environmental Skills Centre in the South Eastern Regional College.

Agreed: That a visit to South Eastern Regional College is arranged for autumn 2013.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a note of a meeting held with the new NIEA Chief Executive.

Agreed: That the Committee will offer to host an event linked to the business visit being arranged by the Chief Executive to demonstrate opportunities to be gained from improving environmental performance.

4. Matters Arising

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with the Department's Invasive Alien Species Strategy and the synopsis of responses to the consultation.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for an indication of how much it will cost to deliver this strategy, where the funding will come from and what the financial benefits will be for Northern Ireland. Also ask why there are no actions listed under 'Improving the Legislative Framework' on page 29 of the strategy.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a copy of the Pollution Prevention and Control District Council Charging Scheme 2012.

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

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the PEDU Report into Flooding.

Agreed: That the Committee will revisit this issue when they receive a briefing from the Local Government Auditor at a future meeting.

Agreed: That a copy of the reply is forwarded to the Local Government Auditor for information.
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental letter on the Transposition of EU Directive 2011/97/EU on the Safe Storage of Metallic Mercury Wastes.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for an explanation of why the potential breach of this directive is not included in the Department's list of issues facing or coming close to infraction proceedings. Also ask for reassurance that the routine update is comprehensive and a true reflection of the current situation with regards implementation of EU legislation.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the Sellafield nuclear processing site.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on road safety in rural areas.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the timing of invoice payments by councils.

Mr Weir declared an interest as a member of North Down Borough Council.

Lord Morrow declared an interest as a member of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council.

Agreed: That a copy of the reply is forwarded to NILGA highlighting the Committee's concern at the variation in the figures and to bring this to councils' attention.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on lighting on Derry City Walls.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking why the Department had to pay any costs incurred by this work.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the delay in the issue of guidance on the Environmental Noise Directive.

Members noted a Departmental letter in relation to a Noise Policy Statement for Northern Ireland.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on safeguards in DOE Planning.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme debate.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the recent school bus accident.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on absenteeism levels in councils.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the Waste Infrastructure Gateway Review.

5. Consultations

Members noted the synopsis of responses to Consultation on Permitted Development Rights for Agricultural Buildings and Plant.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the Consultation on Snares Order.

Consultation on mutual recognition of penalty points between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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

Synopsis of responses to Consultation on Draft Marine Litter Strategy.

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

Synopsis of responses to Consultation on Draft Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013.

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

6. Departmental Update

Members noted an updated Departmental infraction schedule.

Mr Boylan joined the meeting at 10:34am.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental update on its forward work programme.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking what percentage of rivers are in a good ecological condition, in relation to the first cycle of River Basin Management Plans.

7. Marine Bill

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a copy of proposed Departmental amendments to the Marine Bill. Members were also provided with a Definition of Licensable Marine Activities (in relation to draft amendment to Clause 12), Wild Birds Directive Articles 1 – 3 and Regulation 31 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department requesting a Departmental briefing on the Marine Bill amendments.

8. Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on repeat drink drive offenders. Members were also provided with a copy of synopsis of responses to Consultation on the Bill and a Departmental letter on the comparison of drink drive sentences.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department informing them that the Committee expressed a preference for Option B on repeat drink drive offenders as it believe this sends out a stronger and more consistent message on drink driving.

Agreed: That a press release is issued outlining the Committee's position on this matter.

9. Planning Bill

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on new material at appeals.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 10:50am.

10. Correspondence

Correspondence from Business in the Community including a copy of Business and Biodiversity briefing paper and a request to brief the Committee on this in greater detail.

Agreed: That Business in the Community is added to the Committee stakeholder list and invited to the next Committee stakeholder event.

Mr Weir re-joined the meeting at 10:53am.

Letter from the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development seeking clarification on the likelihood of T5 tractors, which are used for agricultural purposes, requiring periodic testing under the proposals for Roadworthiness tests for Motor Vehicles and their Trailers.

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

Members noted the following correspondence:
Copy of paper from the Department of Finance & Personnel outlining the current position of the on-going monitoring of Post Project Evaluations.

Departmental reply to Committee queries on the potential within the Department from the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).

Memo in relation to the Committee book purchase: Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air.

Copy of NIIRTA News – February/March 2013.

Copy of Shooting and Conservation Magazine – March/April 2013.

Copy of Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report (DOE February 2013).

Email regarding the RSPB report into grazing in the uplands.

11. Departmental Briefing on Local Government Reform

Departmental Officials briefed the Committee and answered members' questions on Local Government Reform.

The main areas of discussion were the implementation of reform, the transfer of functions, capacity building and community planning.

Mrs Kelly joined the meeting at 10:57am.

Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 11:13am.

Mr Elliott joined the meeting at 11:29am.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for a copy of the training template and more information on the Community Planning Partnership and the development of the community planning process.

Agreed: That NI Assembly Research is requested to prepare a research paper on best practices in Community Planning elsewhere, especially where audits of the process have taken place.

12. Departmental Briefing on Implementation of the Taxis Act 2008

Departmental Officials briefed the Committee and answered members' questions on Implementation of the Taxis Act 2008.

The main areas of discussion were Single Tier Taxi Licensing, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles and the next steps in the legislative process.

Mr Ross left the meeting at 12:00pm.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 12:09pm.

Agreed: That a copy of the unanswered questions are forwarded to the Department for comment.

13. Assembly Research Briefing on Financial Forecasting

An Assembly Research Official briefed the Committee and answered members' questions on Financial Forecasting.

The main areas of discussion were the Department of Environment's position and its forecasting performance.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking if late payments have any impact on financial forecasting, what impact poor financial forecasting has on Programme for Government targets and if poor financial forecasting has a detrimental impact on the success of monitoring round bids. Also ask if the Department has had any correspondence from the Department of Finance and Personnel in relation to its forecasting performance.

14. Any other business

A member raised the issue of Drumclay Crannóg.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for a copy of their plans in relation to recording, restoring and displaying the archaeological artefacts.

15. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 21 March 2013 at 10:00am in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:31pm.

Anna Lo, MLA
Chairperson, Committee for the Environment
21 March 2013

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