Assembly Committee for Environment Reflects on its Achievements
Date: 24 March 2011
Reference: ENV 13/10/11
As the 2007-2011 Assembly mandate draws to a close, Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment, Cathal Boylan MLA, reflects on the work of the Committee and its achievements: “During the past four years the Committee has reviewed 11 Bills, the highest number of any Committee here at the Assembly.
“One of our biggest achievements has to be the Planning Bill. This is the largest Bill ever to come before the Assembly and the Committee had a very short time to review it. We saw a number of opportunities to improve the Bill including raising the level of fines for breaching planning laws, making it a requirement for Councils to consider the impact of climate change and the ability for the Planning Appeals Commission to fine people who submit appeals that are purely time wasting.
“We have worked closely with the Department to ensure the policies and laws it develops are right for local people, local wildlife and our natural habitat. On a number of occasions the Committee has taken its recommendations to the floor of the Assembly for discussion and I am pleased to say, received the support of the House. On the Local Government Finance Bill the Committee argued that the Department should not be able to reduce the grants awarded to Councils part way through a financial year. The Assembly supported us in this and it is due to become law.
“On the High Hedges Bill we put forward an amendment that will mean that fees charged to people for making a complaint about a high hedge will have an upper limit, protecting people for unreasonably high fees. Also, if a complaint is upheld the fee will be refunded by the hedge owner.”