WRITING in the Irish News today, Paul McErlean strongly criticises Lord Rooker for his approval of the Sprucefield development. What, McErlean notes, was the whole point of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan, years of economic planning and a long fight to protect both existing business and the environment, if an unelected, unaccountable New Labour yes-man can come in and overturn locally-made decisions (though to his credit, at least he made a quick decision)? Nevertheless, I agree with McErlean’s final point: “One of the Lord’s triumphalist phrases at the press conference was that this decision was a ‘no brainer’. You’re right minister: no brains were applied to this decision.”McErlean writes:
It’s just that this type of populist decision-making is the worst form of direct rule political patronage.
I hadn’t seen the smugness of New Labour quite so close up before. But this was a breathtaking performance. If ever there was a case for restoring devolution so that some form of political memory can be applied to decision-making, this is it.
What was the point in writing the Regional Development Strategy, or spending nearly 10 years trying to get the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan tog-ether or publishing the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Framework and two master plans for the retail-led regeneration of the centre of Belfast?
I could go on by referring to government policies on sustainability and greenbelts. But what’s the point? Lord Rooker knows better.