High Court rules NI Environment Minister’s official statements to Assembly unlawful

The BBC reports that the High Court has ruled that the then NI Environment Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, unlawfully changed planning policy in two ministerial statements to the Assembly in May and June of last year.  Mr Justice Treacy ordered the ministerial statements to be quashed.  From the BBC report

…lawyers for the Department of the Environment argued the statements merely offered clarification and guidance within an existing and well established policy framework and did not amount to a change in planning policy.

However, Mr Justice Treacy disagreed and said they went beyond mere advice or information aimed at resolving a difficulty.

They were plainly intended, particularly in the case of the economic statement, to bring about a material change in the way planning applications were determined and to influence the outcome,” the judge said. [added emphasis]

He ruled there should have been a public consultation on any change of such significance and quashed the statements which were made in May and June of last year.

Adds  From the  UTV report

[Mr Justice Treacy] “In the Court’s judgment the respondent misdirected himself in concluding that the statements did not represent a change in planning policy.

“He also, in consequence of that misdirection, failed to consult which is accepted would have been required if, as I have held to be the case, these statements amounted to a change of policy.”