Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Thursday, 18 October 2012

Venue: The Senate Chamber

The meeting began in public session at 10:12am.         

1. Apologies

Apologies are listed above.

2. Minutes

The minutes of the meeting on 11 October 2012 were agreed.

3. Matters arising 

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the progress of enabling legislation for National Parks, a report on the Committee’s visit to Loch Lomond and Lake District National Parks and an Assembly Research paper on Tourism, Promotion and Branding of National Parks in the UK.

Mr Molloy put on record that there was also considerable opposition to the enabling legislation for national parks in Fermanagh.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on a visitor centre at Dunluce Castle.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for further clarification on the NIEA visitor centre proposal and if this is separate from the planning application from the private land owner.

Members noted a Departmental letter regarding Phase 2 of the Graduated Fixed Penalty and Immobilisation Scheme.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on planning application processing times.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for a further breakdown of these figures across all divisional planning offices, how accessible planning officers are in relation to pre application discussions and how quickly these take place once requested.  Ask for information on applications from disabled people and whether delays in planning have an impact on the drawdown of grant funding.  Also inform the Department that members expressed concerns that it appears to take the intervention of senior planning officials to move applications along.

Mr Ross joined the meeting at 10:29am.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on DVA services.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on NIEA responses to planning applications.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department informing that the Committee finds it regrettable that there is no set timeframe for NIEA to comment on applications and that the Committee feels that one should be introduced.  Also ask for further information on the 23% of cases where NIEA are missing their 15 day target for response and how this is being monitored and audited and how many of these late responses are due to a lack of information.  Ask how NIEA inform the public and local communities of protected sites in their area and ask why the decision was taken to remove officials’ notes from planning applications on the planning portal.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a letter to the House of Lords EU Sub Committee outlining Committee concerns at the EU Vehicles Testing proposals, copies of letters to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee and Assembly Research papers on SME’s in Northern Ireland and Agriculture and its contribution to Northern Ireland.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to all Northern Ireland MPs in relation to the EU Vehicles Testing proposals.

4. Consultations

Proposals for changes to Permitted Development Rights for Agricultural Buildings and Plant

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

Mr Weir left the meeting at 10:46am.

5. Departmental update

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with the second quarterly update on the Department’s progress in implementing key Gateway recommendations for future programme delivery and the status of the individual Waste Management Group procurements.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for further information on the Waste Infrastructure Programme.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the Waste Infrastructure Programme and a Ministerial statement.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Minister, the three Waste Management Groups and the Independent Recyclers asking if there is the future capacity of waste to meet targets set out in the Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy and EU Landfill and revised Waste Framework Directives.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to Department of Finance and Personnel, Supply Division, asking if they have reviewed, or intend to review, the PFI procurement process in light of recent developments with SWaMP2008 and the trend towards reduced waste volumes.

Mr Weir re-joined the meeting at 10:49am.

6. Proposals for secondary legislation

SL1 – Pollution Prevention and Control (Industrial Emissions) Regulations (NI) 2012

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for a list of the twenty waste activities that would be affected by this proposal and for an estimate of the collective cost.

7. Statutory Rules

Draft Local Government (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order (NI) 2012 and copy of SL1 – to provide the circumstances in which a council may provide indemnities to any of its members or officers.

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

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

Agreed: That the Committee is content to recommend that the Rule is approved by the Assembly.

8. Correspondence

Ministerial reply to the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts & Leisure regarding the management of archaeological archives.

Agreed: That a copy of the correspondence is forwarded to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Correspondence from the Education Committee to the Department of the Environment seeking additional information regarding home to school transport.

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

Correspondence from the Department of Finance and Personnel regarding the accuracy of departmental financial forecasting.

Agreed: That a copy of the annex is forwarded to the Department asking for an explanation of its relatively poor forecasting performance in 2011/2012 for capital and ring-fenced resource.

Correspondence from a concerned individual(s) regarding the status of the PFI MOT contract review.

Agreed: That a copy of the correspondence is forwarded to the Department and Minister’s Private Office for comment on the allegations made, prior to the Committee considering forwarding to the Public Accounts Committee.

Members noted the following correspondence:

Northern Ireland Science Park reply to Committee queries regarding access and charges to Thompson Graving Dock.

Article 31 – letter to advise the Ministers intention to refuse planning permission Q/2010/0561/O – food store and petrol station, Banbridge.

Article 31 – letter to advise the Ministers intention to grant planning permission P/2012/0121/F – new single carriageway cable stayed opening bridge across Newry River.

9. Departmental briefing on synopsis of responses to consultation on Local Government Reform Policy Proposals

Departmental Officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the synopsis of responses to consultation on Local Government Reform Policy Proposals.

The main areas of discussion were the responses to the departmental consultation and the timetable for Local Government Reform.

Mr McElduff joined the meeting at 11:06am.

Lord Morrow left the meeting at 11:34am.

Lord Morrow re-joined the meeting at 11:55am.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for a copy of the detailed workstream and informing them that the Committee will consider inviting the Minister to brief the Committee after the Executive has considered the latest proposals for Local Government Reform.

10. Any other business

11. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 25 October 2012 at 10:00am in Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:09pm.

Simon Hamilton, MLA
Deputy Chairperson, Committee for the Environment
25 October 2012

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