Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 15 November 2012
Venue: Masserene Room, Clotworthy House, Antrim
The meeting began in public session at 10:06am.
The Mayor of Antrim, Cllr Roy Thompson, welcomed the Committee to Clotworthy House and wished members a successful meeting.
There were no apologies.
The minutes of the meeting on 8 November 2012 were agreed.
3. Matters arising
Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the assessment of nuclear facilities Post-Fukushima.
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between Newry and Mourne District Council and Louth Local Authorities.
Agreed: That a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding is forwarded to the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht for its information.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to Newry and Mourne District Council and the Louth Local Authorities requesting that the Committee is kept up to date on the progress of this Memorandum of Understanding.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to Armagh City and District Council and Monaghan County Council asking if there has been any progress in the development of their Memorandum of Understanding.
Mr Weir joined the meeting at 10:18am.
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on NIEA response times to planning applications and information on archaeological sites.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking if redeployed planning staff due to return to the Department could be used to help with work in relation to Single Farm Payments. Also ask how archaeological finds at ASSI sites are monitored and recorded. Ask the Department what sites it promotes, how they are promoted, if Councils are informed of sites in their area and if Councils are required to hold a register of the sites. Also inform the Department that the Committee would like to see more transparency on the issue of the removal of hand written notes from files on the electronic planning portal and that members feel the notes should not be removed.
Members noted a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the Performance Efficiency and Delivery Unit, PEDU, report on recent flooding incidents.
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on training in relation to Local Government Reform.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to all Local Councils asking what proportion of their training budget is used on training for elected members.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking to what extent the Local Government Training Group actively promotes training courses to elected members, as the Committee feels the focus is on training for council officials. Also highlight that members feel the training courses should be relevant to Councillors, and note that many Councillors would not have the time to devote to Advanced Diploma courses.
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental letter regarding reference to sustainable development in the Marine Bill.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking when it will be bringing the Marine Bill to Consideration Stage and whether the Department is planning any further amendments to the Bill.
Mr Ross joined the meeting at 10:32am.
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental reply to Committee queries on the synopsis of responses to Consultation on Draft Policy HS3 (Amended) Travellers’ Accommodation.
Agreed: That the Committee will await further information from the Department before replying to NICEM’s query on this issue.
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with an OFMdFM reply to Committee queries on the public inquiry into the George Best Belfast City Airport planning agreement.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Planning Appeals Commission asking if they can assure the Committee that they have the necessary resources to deal with the public inquiry into the George Best Belfast City Airport planning agreement once all the relevant information is made available.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking why there is a delay in the provision of information on the George Best Belfast City Airport planning inquiry and asking when the information will be provided. Also inform the Department that the Committee believes a timeline for receipt of information should be introduced and if information is not forthcoming within the specified timeframe the inquiry process should be allowed to continue with a decision made on the information that is available.
Mr Hamilton joined the meeting at 10:53am.
4. Marine Bill
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a draft Committee amendment, a Departmental reply to Committee queries on displacement, NI Marine Taskforce and ANIFPO replies on displacement and the Hansard transcript of the Marine Bill briefing on 8 November 2012.
Agreed: That a decision on this amendment is deferred until further advice is received from the Bill Office.
Copy of EU consultation – Marine Knowledge 2020 from sea bed mapping to ocean forecasting forwarded by NIA EU Scrutiny Coordinator.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department asking what response it has given or intends to give to this consultation.
Departmental reply to queries forwarded by the Committee on behalf of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade & Investment in relation to recent changes to the Tamboran Management Team in Ireland.
Agreed: That a copy of the correspondence is forwarded to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
Members noted the following correspondence:
Email detailing the UK’s biggest climate change campaign, Climate Week 2013.
Copy of a Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment reply to the ETI Committee regarding the impact of national parks on tourism.
6. Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation briefing on Modiolus Restoration Plan
Representatives from the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the Modiolus Restoration Plan.
The main areas of discussion were the causes of the decline in Modiolus in Strangford Lough, the impact the restoration plan will have on fishing within the Lough and a decommissioning scheme for those affected.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development asking why they did not work with the fishing industry in relation to the voluntary code adopted by the Strangford Lough Fishermen. Also ask what plans and budget they have for dealing with compensation for the fishermen affected by the Modiolus Restoration Plan.
Mr Elliott left the meeting at 11:41am.
7. Departmental briefing on Modiolus Restoration Plan
The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a Departmental briefing paper, a revised Modiolus Restoration Plan and a Departmental reply on the stakeholder list.
Departmental Officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the Modiolus Restoration Plan
The main area of discussion was an update on the Department’s work in implementing the revised restoration plan and its engagement with stakeholders in relation to the plan.
Mrs Kelly left the meeting at 11:48am.
Mr Elliott rejoined the meeting at 11:53am.
Mrs Kelly re-joined the meeting at 12:00pm.
Mr Ross left the meeting at 12:02pm.
Mr Hamilton left the meeting at 12:02pm.
Mr Weir left the meeting at 12:09pm.
Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Department highlighting the Committee’s view that representatives from the fishing industry need to be included on the Restoration Working Group as it is the industry that is most likely to be affected by the plan.
Lord Morrow left the meeting at 12:19pm.
8. Freshwater Taskforce briefing on river management
Representatives from the Freshwater Taskforce briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on river management.
The main areas of discussion were the need to put pressure on the Department to strengthen the resources allocated to reduce the disappointingly high number of Water Bodies failing to achieve Good Ecological Status by 2015 and the need to monitor the Department’s progress in implementing all WFD Measures by the end of 2012.
Mr Boylan left the meeting at 12:29pm.
9. Any other business
10. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Thursday 22 November 2012 at 10:00am in The Verbal Arts Centre, Derry/Londonderry
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:44pm.
Anna Lo, MLA
Chairperson, Committee for the Environment
22 November 2012