Nesbitt And Robinson Work Together To Tackle Sewerage And Planning Problems
Published on Thu, 22 Aug 2002
Environment Minister, Mr Dermot Nesbitt, MLA, today announced that those development proposals, which have outline planning approval, but had been held on a precautionary basis due to concerns over possible sewage pollution, would now be processed to decision stage by DOE’s Planning Service.
The announcement follows a meeting today between Mr Nesbitt and his DRD counterpart, Mr Peter Robinson, MP MLA, whose Department is responsible for wastewater treatment. The two Ministers said that they had made good progress in resolving the difficulties. However, decisions on other planning applications, in those areas where NI’s sewerage infrastructure is not yet fully compliant with EU and national environmental standards, with the resultant risk of water pollution, remain on hold for the time being. This is on a precautionary basis, pending the outcome of urgent ongoing discussions between DOE and DRD. Ministers have tasked officials to complete their deliberations and to make recommendations to them by mid September.
Mr Nesbitt and Mr Robinson, in a joint statement, said: "We still have some way to go to ensure that the sewerage system in all areas of Northern Ireland meets EU and national standards.
"This difficulty has again underlined the need for significant ongoing investment in our water and sewerage infrastructure, which has suffered from a long period of under funding. Further, the increasing stringency of EU and national environmental standards has made it more difficult for DRD’s Water Service to fully comply, in all parts of Northern Ireland, in the short to medium term at least. We would both strongly advocate extra resources for DRD’s Water Service, to enable Northern Ireland to meet environmental standards more quickly.
"We also acknowledge that DRD Water Service’s historic under funding has created a difficulty for DOE’s Environment and Heritage Service, which is Northern Ireland’s environmental regulator, and in turn, for the Planning Service, which is obliged to make provision for NI’s development needs while at the same time protecting the environment.
"Our Departments are working to resolve complex legal, environmental and operational issues. However we fully commit ourselves and our two Departments to achieve a balance between Northern Ireland’s development needs and protecting the environment. Sustainable Development will be our guiding principle.
"We are acutely conscious that the precautionary steps which have been taken by the Planning Service, in those areas where the risk of water pollution is significant, is a matter of deep concern to the development industry and those who work in it, and to public representatives.
"We will give top priority to seeking a balanced and pragmatic resolution, consistent with our Departments’ statutory obligations."
Notes to Editors
For further information please contact Philip Maguire, DOE Press Office, Tel 028 9054 0013 or Eamon Deeny DRD Press Office 028 9054 0817.