Press Release

Assembly Committee Calls on Minister to Reinstate Crucial Funding

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Thursday, 11 February 2010

Reference: ENV 06/09/10

In a key Assembly debate, the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment has called on Environment Minister Edwin Poots, MLA to reinstate funding to the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Advisory Committees as a matter of urgency. The debate follows a series of recent meetings by the Committee where members were informed that the decision by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), to withdraw funding was made without any prior warning or consultation.

Committee Chair, Dolores Kelly said that the Committee was disappointed by the Department, and consequently the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s, decision to cut vital funding.

“Since inception in 1994, the Advisory Committees have been extremely successful in providing a holistic approach to the conservation, management and sustainable development of the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann areas. The Committee is deeply concerned that the Department’s decision to remove funding has occurred without a proper assessment of the work of the Advisory Committees and a lack of appropriate consultation.

“The Committee became aware of this issue following a letter from the Lough Neagh Advisory Committee and has sought to gather information and feedback from all stakeholders before deciding to put forward this motion for debate. We have called on the Minister to recognise the important social and environmental role played by the Advisory Committees and why continued funding is crucial to maintaining and further enhancing the economic viability of the Lough Shore and Lower Bann areas. “

Speaking after the debate, the Chairperson commended the Minister’s commitment to reinstate the conditional funding and noted the important role the Department now has in encouraging the nine local councils involved to continue their funding of these vital Advisory Committees.

ENDS


Notes to Editors:

The Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Advisory Committees were established in 1994 to:

  • Advise on the conservation of the natural and man-made heritage.
  • Advise on drainage and navigation.
  • Advise on the management and sustainable development of land and water based recreation.

Advisory Committee members consider relevant topical issues, reach a consensus view on management and make recommendations to government through the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Management Committee

The Committee for the Environment agreed to:

Following its meetings and consideration evidence taken the Committee will:

  • Establish the current positions of the 9 councils that have previously funded the Advisory Committees.
  • Write to the Minister expressing the Committee’s concern that there hasn’t been an independent review of the Advisory Committees since their establishment and that the Committees were not given an opportunity to submit a revised budget when funding pressures became apparent.
  • Request from the Advisory Committees a feasible alternative budget and an indication of the time pressure on the existing budget.
  • Table a Committee motion calling for the Assembly’s support for the Advisory Committees and for the Minister to reinstate their funding.
  • Inform the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure of the actions being taken by the Committee for the Environment on this issue and seek DCAL position on funding.

Committee Membership:

Ms. Dolores Kelly (Chairperson)
Mr. Cathal Boylan (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr. Roy Beggs
Mr. John Dallat
Mr. David Ford
Mr. Danny Kinahan
Mr. Ian McCrea
Mr. Daithi McKay
Mr. Jonathan Bell
Mr. Alastair Ross
Mr. Peter Weir

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