Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 29 September 2011

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began in public session at 10.04a.m.

1. Apologies

Apologies are listed above.

2. Minutes

The minutes of the meeting on 22 September 2011 were agreed.

3. Matters Arising

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a note of the Committee Stakeholder Event held on 15 September.

Agreed: That the notes are forwarded to the Department for comment on the relevant issues and that the other action points are implemented.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the North/South Interconnector planning application.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment asking for a copy of the study they conducted in relation to the costs of overhead and underground power supply.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for a copy of the business plan submitted by NIE as part of the planning application.

Members noted further correspondence from Mr Jones regarding the Grange, Warringstown.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on its failure to meet 5 of its 7 planning performance targets.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for an update on the position of redeployed planning staff and when they are due to return to the Department and an indication of when the Committee will have sight of the planning workforce model. The letter is also to state that members feel that the Department needs to ensure that expertise within the Planning Service is spread across offices so that any applications being dealt with by an individual officer can be progressed should that individual be absent. The Committee also wanted information on current time limits an application might be left with an absent official before being picked up by another officer.

Members noted a Departmental update on their proposed timetable for laying the Local Government (Capital Finance and Accounting) Regulations and the Local Government (Rates Support Grant) Regulations with the Business Office.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on differences in the proposed changes in the consultation paper on the draft Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on time limits for the introduction of Air Quality Plans.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to Limavady Borough Council asking for information on their air quality assessments for Dungiven.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating that members are content for the Department to proceed with the policy but they want to see full engagement from the Department with Belfast City Council on this issue.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 10.27a.m.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to queries from the Public Hire Coalition.

Agreed: That the reply is forwarded to the Public Hire Coalition.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with extracts from the Ombudsman Report 2010 – 2011.

Agreed: That the Ombudsman is invited to a future meeting to brief on his report and other issues relating to planning and that a letter of courtesy is sent to the Committee for the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister advising of the briefing.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating that members were concerned to note that Planning Service has still not put in place what the Ombudsman considers to be basic requirements of customer service and asking what measures the Department is taking to address this. Members would also like to know what future role the Department sees for the Ombudsman in relation to planning as functions are devolved to local government.

Mr Weir rejoined the meeting at 10.33a.m.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on River Basin Management Plans.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking what level of funding it has put in place to implement river basin management plans and how this will be spent.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on fixed penalty notices and loans to district councils as part of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act.

4. Proposals for secondary legislation

SL1 – The Road Traffic (Fixed Penalties) (Offence) (Amendment) Order (NI) 2011.

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

5. Statutory Rules

SR 2011/301 – The Public Service Vehicles (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011.
SR 2011/302 – The Public Service Vehicles (Conditions of Fitness, Equipment and Use) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011.
SR 2011/303 – The Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment No 2) Regulations (NI) 2011.
SR02011/304 – The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011.

Question put and agreed:

That the Committee for the Environment has considered SR 2011/301 – The Public Service Vehicles (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011, SR 2011/302, The Public Service Vehicles (Conditions of Fitness, Equipment and Use) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011, SR 2011/303, The Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment No 2) Regulations (NI) 2011 and SR 2011/304 – The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011 and has no objection to these rules subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report.

Draft SR – The Local Government (Rates Support Grant) Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and agreed:

That the Committee for the environment has considered draft SR – The Local Government (Rates Support Grant) Regulations (NI) 2011 and recommends that it be affirmed by the Assembly.

6. Consultations

Guidance on nuisance parking and abandoned vehicles legislation.

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

Synopsis of responses to proposed revision to the fees for domestic consent applications under the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department expressing m embers’ disappointment at the low response rate to the consultation. Members would like to know if the Department will be considering any of the suggestions made by respondents to the consultation, other than those relating directly to fees, such as linking discharge consents to planning permission and introducing fixed penalties for non-compliant septic tanks. Members would like to know if the Department would consider introducing incentive schemes to improve septic tanks maintenance, particularly for older people and those on benefits as there was a feeling that those in rural areas are hit hardest by costs of implementing collective policies.

Synopsis of responses to Environmental Governance in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating that t he Committee is concerned at the low level of responses from councils and would like to know what the next steps are in the process, the costs of this exercise to date and whether any future consultation will be based on the 5 models included in the discussion paper or if the options will be reduced.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 10.56a.m.

7. Committee Inquiry into Used Tyre Disposal

Members noted an itinerary for the Committee’s fact finding visit as part of its tyre inquiry.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with revised Terms of Reference for the inquiry.

Agreed: That the revised Terms of Reference are published on the Assembly website.

Members raised the issue of the charge by retailers for the disposal of a tyre.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for the total amount of money that is being collected through this scheme.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with an Assembly Research paper on an artificial reef at Poole Bay.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the person in charge of overseeing the artificial reef project asking for the outcomes of this experiment.

8. October Monitoring Round

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental briefing paper and a Departmental budget summary.

Ms Bradley left the meeting at 11.06a.m.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stating m embers support for the Department’s October Monitoring Round submission.

Agreed: That further information is requested on proposals to reclassify current budget to capital spend , and how the Department intends to find the additional £0.4m to complete the Roe Valley Hydro-Electric Scheme . Members would also like further information on the current staffing situation in Planning Service and the anticipated impact of any staff returning that are currently seconded to other parts of the civil service.

Agreed: That the Department is made aware that the Committee was extremely disappointed at the brevity of the briefing and lack of detail and will expect an oral briefing for future monitoring rounds.

9. Departmental briefing on consultation on High Hedges Act draft Guidance

Departmental officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the consultation on draft guidance on the High Hedges act.

Ms Bradley rejoined the meeting at 11.18a.m.

The main areas of discussion were mediation, the remit of the Act, and fees.

Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 11.59a.m.

Mr Kinahan left the meeting at 12.00p.m.

10. Departmental briefing on synopsis of responses to consultation on Proposed

Changes to the Learner and Restricted Driver Schemes and on Graduated Driver Licensing.

Mr Clarke left the meeting at 12.07p.m.

Departmental officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the synopsis of responses to Proposed Changes to the Learner and

Restricted Driver Schemes and on Graduated Driver Licensing.

The main areas of discussion were night time curfews, passenger limits, motorway driving and minimum hours of driving experience.

Agreed: That the Committee awaits the proposals put forward to the Minister before commenting.

Members discussed the Department’s proposals to tackle drink-driving through the introduction of a Road Traffic Amendment Bill.

Agreed: That the Committee Secretariat prepares a response to the Department based on members’ comments at the meeting.

Mr Dallat left the meeting at 12.52p.m.

11. Departmental briefing on SL1 – Amendment of the Road Transport

(Working Time) Regulations (NI) 2005.

Departmental officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on their proposals to amend the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations.

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

12. Correspondence

Email regarding the impending Runkerry planning decision.

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

Correspondence from the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development to the Department regarding the clearing of litter from rivers/riverbanks.

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

Correspondence from the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development to the Department regarding Farmers’ for Action and Corporate Social Responsibility.

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

Correspondence from the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development to the Department regarding Farmers’ for Action and driving curfew on young farmers.

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

Copy of the Department of the Environment Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking if the waste managment process is now down to one bidder in each waste management region, how long it will take to complete the process, whether other technologies to deal with waste have been considered and whether local companies are being disadvantaged by the procurement process.

Agreed: That the Department is also asked if there is a discrepancy in the report as it is suggested that the information is less than 45 days old but the information has been the same in the last 3 updates that the Committee has received.

Members noted the following correspondence:

RSPB briefing paper on Environmental Better Regulation White Paper.

Copy of the Department of the Environment Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report.

Copy of NILGOSC Annual Report 2010/2011.

Copy of Citizens Advice Training Programmes 2011/2012.

Note of the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group September meeting.

13. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 13 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
13 October 2011

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