Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 25 June 2009

COMMITTEE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
THURSDAY 25 JUNE 2009,
ROOM 144, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS

Present:
Mr Roy Beggs
Mr Cathal Boylan (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Trevor Clarke
Mr David Ford
Mr Tommy Gallagher
Mr Danny Kinahan
Mr Ian McCrea
Mr Patsy McGlone (Chairperson)
Mr Daithi McKay
Mr Alastair Ross
Mr Peter Weir

In Attendance:
Dr Alex McGarel (Assembly Clerk) 
Mr Sean McCann (Assistant Clerk)
Mrs Pauline Hunter (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Steven Mealey (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: 

The meeting began in closed session at 10.35 a.m.

The meeting went into public session at 10.49a.m.

The Chairperson welcomed Mr Danny Kinahan to the Committee as a replacement for Mr David McClarty.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to Mr McClarty expressing the Committee’s thanks for the work he had done on behalf of the Committee.

1. Apologies

There were no apologies.

2. Matters Arising

Draft interim response – River Basin Management Plans:

The Chairperson informed members they had been provided with a draft response along with papers provided by the Assembly Research Service and the stakeholder engagement report.

Agreed: That the report forms the basis of the Committee’s response.

Agreed: That the report is published on the Assembly website.

Letter from DOE Minister regarding fees deferred by the Environment Committee:

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a copy of the Minister’s response in relation to the fees issues deferred by the Committee. The Committee had requested that the Minister reconsider proposals to increase fees in a number of areas.

Agreed: That the Committee noted the Minister’s decision to proceed with the introduction of the fees increases and charging schemes.

Responses from Minister of the Environment, DRD and DARD regarding proposals for the Extension of Designated Shellfish Waters:

The Chairperson informed members that the Committee agreed (at its meeting on 7 May 2009) to invite officials from DOE, DRD and DARD to provide further briefing on the proposals for the extension of designated Shellfish Waters at today’s meeting.

Members noted that the Minister of the Environment subsequently wrote to the Committee on 10 June 2009 to advise that he could see no merit in further re-examining or seeking to alter the perspective of any of the 3 parties through a further evidence session before the Committee. The Minister also advised that he is instructing his officials to proceed as soon as possible to make the necessary designations.

The Chairperson informed members that they had also been provided with copies of responses from DRD (including further clarification) and DARD in relation to the request for further evidence on the proposed designations.

Agreed: That the Committee noted the Minister’s decision and also noted the concerns of DARD and the shellfish industry.

Letter from Newtownabbey Road Safety Committee regarding funding for the Road Safety Council NI:

The Chairperson informed members that they had been provided with a copy of a letter from the Newtownabbey Road Safety Committee regarding comments made by the Minister for the Environment about the Road Safety Council at the meeting on 11 June.

Agreed: That a copy of the letter is forwarded to Newtownabbey Road Safety Committee.

Correspondence from Utility Regulator regarding the North South Interconnector project and leakage from NI Water’s network:

The Chairperson informed members that Iain Osborne, Utility Regulator, briefed the Committee at its meeting on 19 March 2009 in relation to the North South Interconnector and on leakage from NI Water’s network and agreed to provide further information on these issues. This information had now been provided.

Agreed: That information is sought as to which Department is responsible for overseeing the Utility Regulator.

Agreed: That a copy of the letter is forwarded to the Safer Electricity for Armagh and South Tyrone group.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 11.02a.m.

Freedom Of Information requests:

The Chairperson informed members that a ‘Freedom of Information’ request had been received from which will be processed by the Assembly FOI Unit under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Agreed: That authority for any non-routine FOI requests received during summer recess is delegated to the Chair and Deputy Chair.

3. Departmental briefing on the Groundwater Daughter Directive

Departmental officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the Groundwater Daughter Directive.

Mr Ross left the meeting at 11.15a.m., Mr Weir rejoined the meeting at 11.15a.m.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the DOE expressing the Committee’s concerns regarding the possibility of the introduction of a charging scheme on this issue.

4. Departmental briefing on the June Monitoring Round and the Implementation of International Financial Reporting Standards

Departmental officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the June Monitoring Round and the Implementation of International Financial Reporting Standards.

The main areas of discussion were the potential shortfall in planning fees, planning service reform costs, delays with the ePic system, reclassification of money and consultancy costs.

Mr Clarke left the meeting at 11.38a.m. 
Mr Weir left the meeting at 11.46a.m.

Agreed: That the DOE provides the Committee, in tabular form, with a breakdown of the costs of planning reform to date and total projected costs.

Agreed: That the DOE provides the Committee with further information on the reclassification of money.

Agreed: That a letter is sent to the Minister asking for information on bids to come to the Committee in a more timely fashion in future.

Mr Weir rejoined the meeting at 12.00p.m. 
Mr Clarke rejoined the meeting at 12.05p.m.

5.Departmental briefing on the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

Mr McGlone declared an interest as a member of Cookstown District Council.

Mr Beggs declared an interest as a member of Carrickfergus Borough Council and his father is a member of Larne Borough Council.

Mr Clarke declared an interest as a member of Antrim Borough Council.

Mr Ford declared an interest as a member of Antrim Borough Council.

Mr Kinahan declared an interest as a member of Antrim Borough Council.

Mr McCrea declared an interest as a member of Cookstown District Council and as a member of Cookstown Transition Committee.

Mr McKay declared an interest as a member of Ballymena Borough Council.

Mr Weir declared an interest as a member of North Down Borough Council, a member of North Down and Ards Transition Committee and a member of Policy Development Panel A.

Departmental officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

The main areas of discussion were vesting orders, waste groups, the timescale for the Bill and transition committees.

Agreed: That the DOE provides the Committee with more information in relation to the powers the Department would acquire, through the Bill, in relation to acquiring lands from other government departments.

Agreed: That the Department provides the Committee with more information in relation to the reasoning behind the set up of the Belfast transition committee and on the reason for the use of the term ‘predecessor council’.

Mr Ross rejoined the meeting at 12.25p.m.
Mr Weir left the meeting at 12.28p.m.

Agreed: That the Department provides clarification on the use of the term ‘predecessor council’ and provided potential solutions to address this.

Mr Gallagher left the meeting at 12.33p.m.

Agreed: That Mr Weir speaks on behalf of the Committee at the second reading of the Bill on Tuesday 30 June.

Agreed: That the public notice calling for submissions/views on the Bill is issued.

6 . Departmental briefing on SL1 – The Planning (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009

Mr McKay rejoined the meeting at 12.45p.m.
Mr Weir rejoined the meeting at 12.46p.m.

Departmental officials briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on SL1 – The Planning (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009.

Mr Weir left the meeting at 12.58p.m.
Mr Ford left the meeting at 1.21p.m

Agreed: That Assembly Research provides a fuller analysis of planning fees throughout GB before the Committee reaches a decision on this SL1.

Mr Clarke left the meeting at 1. 35p.m. 
Mr Kinahan left the meeting at 1. 35p.m.

7. Inquiry into Climate Change update

The Chairperson informed members that the Committee had been forwarded an electronic copy of a submission from arc21.

Agreed: That the submission is accepted as part of the Committee’s inquiry.

The Chairperson informed members they had been provided with copies of the further responses received from DETI, DHSS&PS and OFMDFM for information on how and to what extent each of the Public Service Agreements (PSA) for which it has responsibility contributes to Northern Ireland’s emission reduction target.

Further information had been provided by Stop Climate Change NI on NI emissions, measures identified by Stop Climate Change NI on climate change for Northern Ireland and the role of the OFMDFM Committee in climate change targets.

The Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside had provided information requested by members on wind turbine energy and energy produced by other sources such as peat.

Information on the sustainability committees in Wales and the Republic of Ireland and the work they carry out had been provided for members’ information A further research paper entitled ‘Cross cutting scrutiny of climate change structures in Wales and the Republic of Ireland’ had also been included for information.

A briefing paper from the Carbon Trust entitled ‘Carbon Trust support to the public sector’ had been included in meeting papers for members’ information.

The Sustainability Committee from the National Assembly for Wales has provided copies of four carbon reduction reports that they have published along with copies of letters written to individual ministers following its scrutiny session on mainstreaming sustainability within their portfolios.

A response from the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee in the Scottish Parliament on the approaches taken for adapting to and mitigation of climate change, and the effectiveness of government structures responsible had been included for members’ information.

The Chairperson informed members that an informal meeting will take place with Sean Barrett, Chairperson of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, in Dublin over lunch on Tuesday 30 June.

8. Proposals for Secondary Legislation

SL1 – The retrofitting of ‘blind spot’ mirrors to heavy goods vehicles

Agreed: That the Committee considered The SL1 – The retrofitting of ‘blind spot’ mirrors to heavy goods vehicles and had no objection to the proposal.

SL1 – Exchange of Driving Licences

Agreed: That the Committee considered The SL1 – Exchange of Driving Licences and had no objection to the proposal.

SL1 – Environmental Liability (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009

Agreed : That the Committee considered The SL1 – Environmental Liability (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009 and had no objection to the proposal.

SL1 – Proposed change to fees by DVA in respect of Driving Licences

Agreed : That the Committee considered The SL1 – Proposed change to fees by DVA in respect of Driving Licences and had no objection to the proposal.

9. Departmental consultations

The Committee considered the following Departmental consultations:

Consultation on proposals for a future Exemptions regime under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

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

Members noted the ning Waste Directive (2006/21/EC) in Northern Ireland – synopsis of consultation responses.

Consultation on the implementation of the Graduated Fixed Penalties, Financial Penalty Deposit & Immobilisation Schemes.

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

10. Forward Work Programme

Members noted the revised Committee Forward Work Programme.

The Chairperson reminded members of a meeting with the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force on Monday 29 June, 1.45p.m., Room 382.

11. Correspondence

1. Letter from the Department regarding Correspondence from Mark Hamilton on Policy TY 2 of draft PPS 21 regarding Signature Project for Sustainable Development.

Agreed: That a copy of the correspondence is forwarded to Mr Hamilton.

2. E-mail from Mr Danny Kennedy MLA regarding a proposal for a Digester as a better alternative to the Incinerator proposed for Belfast.

Agreed: That Mr Kennedy is asked for further information on this issue.

3. Members noted a letter from the Department regarding The Northern Ireland Agri-Food Regulation and Simplification Review Report.

4. Letter from the Committee for the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding the Children and Young People’s Action Plan.

Agreed: That Committee staff check the document for any references to road safety and bring this information back to a future Committee meeting.

5. Departmental response to the Committee’s request for comments on the letter from C.T. Developments Ltd in relation to planning applications for Four Seasons Health Care.

Agreed: That a copy of the response is forwarded to C.T. Developments Ltd.

6. Letter from the River Faughan Anglers Ltd regarding the environmental damage caused by contractors appointed by Government Departments.

Agreed: That a copy of the letter is forwarded to the Department for Regional Development and the Department of the Environment for comment.

7. Departmental response to the Committee’s request for a copy of any Departmental response issued to John Wright, following the Committee’s consideration of a letter which he had sent to DOE Road Safety Division.

Agreed: That a copy of the response is forwarded to Mr Wright.

8. Post card from member of the Ulster Rural Riders Association regarding bridleways in Northern Ireland.

Agreed : That a letter is sent to the Ulster Rural Riders Association seeking further information on this issue.

9. Members noted a letter from the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee regarding Third Composite Report on Issues Dealt with by Correspondence.

10. Members noted a Departmental response to the Committee’s request for clarification on the further advice and recommendations as provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) regarding the theft of Enforcement files from Downpatrick Planning Division.

11. Members noted a copy of the RSPB response to the consultation on the revised NIEA Enforcement Policy.

12. Members noted a letter from the Department informing the Committee that the Planning Service ‘Development Management Statistics Report – 08/09 Fourth Quarterly Statistical Bulletin is posted on the Planning Service website from Thursday 18 th June 2009.

13. Letter from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK branch (CPA), inviting the Committee to an International Parliamentary Conference on Climate change being held at Westminster in London, from Saturday 5-11 th July 2009.

Agreed: That members are contacted in relation to attendance at this conference.

14. The Committee noted the following DOE Press Releases / Publications:

“Derrylin property developer fined £400 for waste offences.”

NIEL Environmental Fact Sheet, “A Future for Northern Ireland’s Built Heritage” volume 7 issue 2.

“NIIRTA news issue, 29 June 2009.”

“Archaeologists hunt for more clues about Castle’s past.”

“Agency states barking mad event.”

“Guided tour of Abbey to help bring history alive.”

“Planners give Bombardier expansion plan lift off.”

“Pupils to get insight into how monuments are conserved.”

“NIW Ltd convicted for discharge offences.”

NIEA provides “inside track” on Monastic settlement

“Castle visitors to get a glimpse of medieval life.”

“Clady woman fined £20,000 for waste offences.”

“ Wilson clarifies position on major economic development schemes and development plans.”

“Minister hands over new mopeds to support road safety GCSE.”

“New guidebook charts monuments in state care.”

“Minister launches initiative to speed up planning applications.”

“Minister announces agreement on repatriation of waste.”

“ Northern Ireland will consider climate change projections, Wilson confirms.”

“Minister salutes waste facility’s focus on future generations.”

“Minister urges public to help combat water pollution.”

12. Any other business
13. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday, 2 July 2009 at 10.30am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.43m.

Patsy McGlone
Chairperson, Committee for the Environment
2 July 2009

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