Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 15 March 2012

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The meeting began in public session at 10:08am.

1.       Apologies

There were no apologies.

2.       Minutes

The minutes of the meeting on 8 March 2012 were agreed.

3.      Matters Arising

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on pot fishing in Strangford Lough.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for a Departmental briefing on this issue at a future meeting. 

Members noted a Departmental letter in relation to the Pollution Prevention and Control District Council Charging Scheme 2012.

Mr Hamilton joined the meeting at 10:24am.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the electric car infrastructure event.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking them to encourage local Councils to sign up to the scheme and also ask how the £10k fee to join the scheme was arrived at.

Agreed: That a research paper is prepared on the viability of people having charging points at their home.

Agreed: That the Committee meeting on 29 March 2012 would start at 9:15am to allow members to attend the City Hall event on electric car infrastructure.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the PFI contract for MOT testing facilities.

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

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for the conflict of interest process to be reviewed to ensure it is working effectively.  Also to ask if there is specific guidance as to where the conflict of interest book is to be held.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with an Assembly Research paper identifying potential changes to the EU Roadworthiness Directive and how this will impact on the MOT.

Agreed: That a copy of the research paper is forwarded to the Department, asking what impact these proposals might have for MOT testing in Northern Ireland and what measures it is taking to prepare for them.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to the Education Committee’s queries on a recent inspection of school buses.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department urging them to continue with spot checks and requesting that the Committee is kept fully informed of the results of these spot checks.  Also to ask if the three buses registered in the Republic of Ireland will be subject to prosecution in the Republic of Ireland and how much earlier had vehicle one taken the PSV test before the spot check found the defects. 

Agreed: That a copy of the Departmental reply is forwarded to the Committee for Education.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a letter from the Northern Ireland Polymers Association expressing concern about the financial implications of proposals to increase the recycling target for plastic packaging.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking what implications the new targets have on heavy gauge plastics.

Agreed: That a copy of the Departmental reply is forwarded to NI Polymers Association.

Mr Kinahan left the meeting at 10:50am.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a reply from NILGA to Committee queries on Voluntary Transition Committees.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department stressing the urgency of this issue and informing them that the Committee believes these Transition Committees should be made Statutory immediately as there will be no urgency to take the reform process forward until this happens. Members would also like to see a clear timeline for local government reform and feel that the Department needs to review the regional government structures as they do not guarantee a reflective political balance and that the Department needs to work in partnership with local government. The Committee also expressed concern about the lack of funding from central government and feels that this needs to be addressed as does communication with local government as NILGA pointed out that Circular LG 16/08 was out of date.

Agreed: That a copy of NILGA’s reply is forwarded to the Department for urgent reply.

Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on smokeless fuels.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with an invitation from the Oireachtas Committee to participate in a joint seminar with the 12 border councils on planning regulations.

Agreed: That the Clerk liaises with the Clerk of the Oireachtas Committee to get further information on this issue.

Mr McGlone left the meeting at 11:09am.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to the Committee’s request for the Department to undertake an analysis of its budgetary performance in 2011/12 and indicate how it might improve this in 2012/13.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department expressing the Committee’s disappointment at the reply and to get more feedback on how the Department intends to analyse its budgetary performance in 2011-12 and make improvements in 2012-13 so that it can provide a response to the Committee for Finance and Personnel before the deadline in June 2012.

Members noted a draft programme for the NI Marine Taskforce event on 22 March.

4.      Waste Management Procurement Process

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with Department replies to Committee queries on the waste management procurement process.

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a letter from NI Association of Independent Recyclers on the waste management procurement process.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department strongly recommending that it reviews all assumptions made in the procurement process and requesting that the Committee is kept fully informed of its implementation of the action plan on the recent Gateway Review.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Committee for Finance and Personnel recommending the review of all assumptions made in the Waste Management procurement process and, in particular, the need for 25 year contracts. Also, that the Department keeps the Committee fully informed of its implementation of the action plan on the recent Gateway Review, further Gateway Reviews of the process and progress being made by the Waste Management Groups.

Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 11:18am.

5.      Consultations

Synopsis of responses to the consultation on Defacement Removal Notices

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

6.       Statutory Rules

SR 2012/85 – Local Government (Payments to Councillors)

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.

Question put and agreed: That the Committee for the Environment has considered SR 2012/85 – Local Government (Payments to Councillors) and has no objection to the rule.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking how this Rule will be implemented in tandem with the recent review into MLA salaries and the recommendation to reduce the salaries of those MLAs who are also either councillors or MPs. The Committee felt that the implementation of this Rule might contradict the review report recommendation.

Members would particularly like to know at what point in the payment process the reduction will take place and if the retained salaries for councillors will be returned into council budgets or if the amount goes back to the Exchequer.

Mr McGlone re-joined the meeting at 11:23am.

SR 2012/77 – The Road Traffic Offenders (Prescribed Devices) Order (NI) 2012

Question put and agreed: That the Committee for the Environment has considered SR 2012/77 – The Road Traffic Offenders (Prescribed Devices) Order (NI) 2012 and has no objection to the rule subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules report.

7.       Departmental briefing on supplementary planning guidance to PPS 21

Departmental Officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the supplementary planning guidance to PPS 21

The main areas of discussion were the synopsis of responses to the consultation and how the guidance is being rolled out across divisional offices.

Mr Hamilton re-joined the meeting at 11:38am.

Mr Boylan left the meeting at 11:39am.

Mr Kinahan re-joined the meeting at 11:47am.

Mr Molloy joined the meeting at 11:59am.

Mr Boylan re-joined the meeting at 12:09pm.

Mr Campbell left the meeting at 12:24pm.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 12:30pm.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking for statistics on the percentage of cases under PPS21 sent to the Planning Appeals Commission and the percentage of cases overturned on appeal.

8.     Departmental briefing on Interdepartmental Group Report on Wildfires

Departmental Officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the Interdepartmental Group Report on Wildfires.

The main areas of discussion were the number of wildfires and the initiatives put in place to reduce the risk of future fires.

Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 12:56pm.

9.      Joint briefing by the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade

Association (NIIRTA), British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) on the single use carrier bag levy

Representatives from NIIRTA/BHA/NIRC briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the single use carrier bag levy.

The main areas of discussion were the level of plastic bag levy and the re-use of plastic bags in the food service sector.

Mr Kinahan left the meeting at 1:08pm.

Mr Dallat left the meeting at 1:18pm.

Mr Molloy left the meeting at 1:46pm.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to DEFRA to ask for a copy of the communications report on the impact of plastic bag usage on social groups.

10.     Correspondence

Agreed: That all correspondence is re-tabled at next weeks meeting due to time constraints.

11.     Any other business

12.     Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 22 March 2012 at 10:00am in the Graffan Room, Castle Espie.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1:59pm

Anna Lo, MLA
Chairperson, Committee for the Environment
22 March 2012

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