“The Department is therefore under a statutory duty..”

When the Environment Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, rescinded Lisnaragh’s designation as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) a departmental spokesman emerged to claim that – “Given that the decision to confirm or rescind the declaration had to be made by 30 October and that there was insufficient time to discuss the committee’s concerns with the Minister, the decision was taken to rescind the declaration.” Now, after re-designating Lisnaragh as an ASSI, the Belfast Telegraph reports that the Minister has admitted to the Assembly Environment Committee

Mr Wilson said his officials had advised that a scientific report prepared on behalf of the landowners did not dispute the importance of the earth science or invalidate its selection as an ASSI. “The Department is therefore under a statutory duty to make a further declaration. I therefore propose to instruct NIEA to re-declare Lisnaragh ASSI and re-consult the landowners,” he said.

Except that the re-consultation appears to be a result of the re-designation, after the Ministerial rescinding, of the ASSI. And that official advice [pdf file] was given in advance of the Minister’s decision to rescind. So why, given the statutory duty now referenced, did the Minister rescind the designation in the first place?

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  • The Raven

    Pete, I am absolutely convinced that this was a case of Sammy pushing the boundaries to see how far he could get.

    I cannot see any other reason. It was a clear slap in the teeth to the environmental lobby – nothing more or less.

  • McGrath

    “So why, given the statutory duty now referenced, did the Minister rescind the designation in the first place?”

    “eeny meanie, meinie mo”?

    Thus strikes me as the extent of logical thought exercised in the decision process. My opinion of the Minister concerned remains intact.

  • willis

    Apart from mockery, which he seems to have attracted and handled throughout his long and colourful career, what sanctions can be applied to him?

  • Peat Blog

    Sammy deserves the critical attention he gets but why has nobody qestioned the role of the Environment Committee, particularly the Chair who seems to spend all his time trying to weaken anything relating to the environment. What was their invovement in the Lisnaragh debacle?

  • The Impartial Observer

    The Committee took the side of the local residents got this off the Assembly website;

    “5. Briefing by Departmental officials on designation as an ASSI at Lisnaragh

    Officials from the Department along with a representative from the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside briefed the Committee and answered members’ questions on the proposed designation of an ASSI at lands in Lisnaragh.

    Representatives from the Disappointed Lisnaragh Landowners Group also answered questions on the proposed designation.

    Agreed: That the Committee write to the Minister advising that it has concluded, on the evidence provided to date, that the consultation process in this instance was flawed and incomplete

    Mr Ford asked for it to be stated that the challenge to the Department’s science was not substantiated.”

    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/environment/2007mandate/minutes/2008/081023.htm

    You’re quite right that serious questions need to be asked of Patsy McGlone. The SDLP’s environment policy gives opportunism a bad name. They are the ones who wanted a complete free for all in rural housing, something about which Wilson took McGlone apart over in the PPS21 debate, and of course we’ve had Eddie Mc’Grady’s personal crusade against Sellafield. People like Mc’Grady and Mc’Glone are happy to whine and lecture about matters beyond their control yet when they have to deal with an issue within their remit which also has the potential to cause real harm to the environment, they take the populist route. At least Sammy Wilson is consistent in his position on environmental matters!

  • Peat Blog

    The Impartial Observer,

    Quite right, and they all supported an independent environmental protection agency. They are obviously on the neo-liberal wing of social democracy.

  • David Ford

    IO

    It’s actually a bit more complicated. Read down the minutes, and you will find that (effectively under AOB) the Committee added to its quoted decision that the consultation was flawed to say it was so flawed that designation should be rescinded. I had left by that stage, or I would certainly have objected, in light of my quoted comments.

    The letter sent to the Committee for last Thursday’s meeting stated that the information which was not released to landowners (thus causing the flawed consultation) was one line in a report covering all glacial moraines in Northern Ireland. The Department will now share that information with landowners.

    PB

    I trust you can acknowledge that not every member of the Environment Committee is “obviously on the neo-liberal wing of social democracy”.

  • David Ford

    Pete B

    I don’t know why the Minister rescinded the designation, given that the Committee is not a statutory consultee (as pointed out by Friends of the Earth).

    Sluggerites will have to decide if he has instructed the redeclaration because of the unchanged science, or because of the possibility of legal action. A number of FOIs were submitted on this, including from FOE and RSPB.

  • John Woods

    Here’s the letter Friends of the Earth sent to the Minister on 17 Nov settting out six grounds on which his decision was unlawful. http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/letters/ni_lisnaragh_letter_171108.pdf
    Mr Wilson’s press statement in reaction to Friends of the Earth announcing victory was a classic – he accused us of ‘bluff and spin’ mentioning our name five times. Was he rattled? Just a bit.

  • Peat Blog

    David:

    PB

    I trust you can acknowledge that not every member of the Environment Committee is “obviously on the neo-liberal wing of social democracy”.

    Agreed.