“A recommendation to decline the application is expected..”

The Environment Minister Arlene Foster is due to appear in front of the Assembly’s Environment Committee on Thursday, and the National Trust apears to be rolling up its sleeves [Adds new link for that NT reference] in preparation for a fight. Meanwhile the Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon has got his hands on an internal Department of Enterprise memo, on the planning application by Seymour Sweeney.. the application the Environment Minister is minded to approve. From the Belfast Telegraph report

The document was written in April by a senior Department of Enterprise (DETI) civil servant closely involved in plans for a publicly-funded visitor centre. The recipient was DETI’s permanent secretary Stephen Quinn. Referring to the current position regarding Mr Sweeney’s Causeway planning application, the memo stated: “A recommendation to decline the application is expected to go to the Planning Service Management Board this week. It will be a matter for the Management Board to decide what action is taken next.”

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  • Nevin

    “has got his hands on an internal Department of Enterprise memo”

    An official leak?

  • Nevin

    I went to Coleraine Borough Council’s meeting tonight to hear Graham Thompson, the National Trust’s project director for the Giant’s Causeway, describe the (long) gestation of the new Visitor’s Centre.

    He revealed that Stephen Quinn, Permanent Secretary at the DETI, stated on August 21 that Minister Foster from Environment was ‘minded’ to accept the private developer’s plan. Perhaps the Minister will now indicate when she entered the ‘minded’ state. Perhaps my earlier reference to mid-August will prove to be not far off the mark.

    It was unclear from the Council discussion that followed whether the private developer’s plan was a detailed one or merely an outline one.

    On September 10, Minister Dodds said, “It would not be a prudent use of taxpayers’ money to proceed further in the circumstances, given Minister Foster’s position on the private sector planning application.”

    On September 18, on BBC NI News: “Enterprise Minister Nigel Dodds has said plans for a publicly funded visitors centre at the Giant’s Causeway have been put on hold, but not aborted.”

    So if Minister Foster becomes ‘unminded’ will Minister Dodds consider £21m of taxpayer’s and other money to be a prudent expense on a new visitor’s centre?

    Foster and Dodds may now reflect that a week – or so – is a long time in government ….

  • Aquifer

    Dodds is implying that planning permission is about government approval for a scheme. This is a disingenuous effort to pass the buck for his backing for one scheme. In fact, multiple schemes can receive approval under planning legislation for the same site.

    The question remains. Which scheme for this most important site has official backing and why?

  • Nevin

    Aquifer, the Causeway Coast Masterplan appeared to be cruising along smoothly on March 28, 2007, if rather slowly, under the direction of the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre, Ltd., a wholly owned not for profit Government company.

    The next stage of the process involved resolving the car parking issue, completing a EIA – consultation, submitting a HLF Application, submitting a planning application and completing a business case.

    Then the ministers decide to torpedo the Government led project. Perhaps they fired blanks …

  • Buile Suibhne

    My understanding is that not long after Dodds took over at DETI he suspended work on the Causeway visitor centre scheme until such a time that the Sweeney planning application was ruled on.

  • ulsterfan

    Nevin

    You seem to be on top of this subject which means the rest of us can relax and let you get on with protecting the public interest.
    I do appreciate your efforts in this regard.
    Good luck!

  • Bigger Picture

    If he did stop it shortly after coming into office was that not simply to spare more money being wasted if Foster was giving thought to Sweeny’s proposal?? Seems sensible really, and if she declined, more money could have gone into the DETI sponsored scheme.

    “So if Minister Foster becomes ‘unminded’ will Minister Dodds consider £21m of taxpayer’s and other money to be a prudent expense on a new visitor’s centre?”

    If the private option isn’t worth pursuing then why not?It’s about saving money ad getting infrastructure, if the private sector are willing to step in, why should govt stop them when money is needed in other areas??

  • Nevin

    BP, the debate continues on the more recent thread. It includes a link to Ian Paisley jnr’s 2001 speech in the Assembly.

  • Nevin

    If so, Buile Suibhne, he seems not to have told his partners, the National Trust and Moyle District Council.

  • Nevin

    Thanks, Ulsterfan. Sadly, the planning process appears to be rotten to the core; IMO it’s ‘not fit for purpose’.

    PS It’s not really my duty to protect the public interest; I’d hoped that our elected representatives might have put a few more shoulders to that wheel.