Northern Ireland Planning Service

Nesbit Announces Lifting Of Precautionary Hold On Planning Applications Regarding Sewerage Problems

Published on Mon, 7 Oct 2002
Environment Minister, Mr Dermot Nesbitt, today announced that planning applications, which had been held on a precautionary basis, due to concerns over sewerage in fifty-six areas in Northern Ireland, would now be processed by DOE’s Planning Service.
Speaking at Stormont Mr. Nesbitt said: "In many areas, due to years of under funding, Northern Ireland’s sewerage infrastructure falls well below modern standards. Further, the European Union has ‘raised the bar’ on what these standards should be. As a result, only 35% of Northern Ireland’s sewerage system meets EU standards. This is unacceptable to me as Environment Minister, unacceptable to the EU, and causing problems.
"Therefore it was necessary for me to take a ‘time out’ to assess the full extent of the problem and to find a way forward. This involved officials from my Department together with DRD officials, taking a detailed look at numerous areas in the Province where the sewerage system at present is not acceptable.
"I know the ‘time out’ was difficult for many in the short term. But I needed detailed re-assurance from DRD’s Water Service, which is responsible for sewerage.
I needed to take a pragmatic approach to balance the need for physical development, on the one hand, with the need to protect the environment, on the other. I needed to provide:
  • certainty and clarity
  • clear identification of where risks are and potential level of risk
  • a clear timetable to deal with funding issues
  • a clearly established relationship between DOE and DRD in order to monitor and review
  • opportunity for the construction industry to assist.
"This we have now achieved. Getting to this stage though has been tough. It has been a question of understanding the complex problem, analysing it and providing a context for a solution. It has involved considering who does what within a timescale and it will involve monitoring and reviewing progress.
"Realising this difficult situation, we have managed to provide a balance between development, jobs and the long term needs of the environment. As a result I have now unlocked the precautionary hold on planning applications in all fifty-six areas.
"I now look forward by December 2002, to a sewerage investment strategy that addresses these problems."

Notes to Editors

  1. Environment Minister Mr. Dermot Nesbitt is expected to make a statement to the Assembly today revealing that the fifty six areas of Northern Ireland where planning applications are presently being put on hold on a precautionary basis due to problems with sewerage infrastructure will now be processed by DOE’s Planning Service.
  2. The areas where planning applications were being kept on hold are at the following locations:

    Annahilt, Annalong, Antrim, Ardglass, Armagh, Ballycastle, Ballyclare, Ballygowan, Ballyhalbert, Ballymena, Ballymoney/Glenstall, Ballystruder, Ballywalter, Banbridge, Bangor/Groomsport, Bessbrook, Carrickfergus, Carrowdore, Castlederg, Castlerock, Castlewellan, Cloughey, Coleraine, Cookstown, Crossgar, Culmore, Donaghadee, Dunloy, Fivemiletown, Glenavy, Greyabbey, Irvinestown, Kircubbin, Larne/Ballygally, Lisbarnet, Loughries, Millisle, Moneyreagh, Newry, Newtownabbey, Newtownards/Comber, Omagh, Portaferry, Portavogie, Portrush, Portstewart, Raholp, Rathfriland, Ravarnet, Seagoe, Stewartstown, Strabane, Strangford, Tandragee, Tullaghgarley, Whitehead.
  3. For further media information please contact Philip Maguire DOE Press Office Tel 028 9054 0013.

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