Northern Ireland's environment is a victim of peace process, claims Friends of the Earth director James Orr
Northern Ireland's environment has become the victim in a political and physical carve-up of the country, Friends of the Earth (FoE) has warned.
In an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph, FoE NI director James Orr said government continues to bend over backwards to accommodate damaging development.
"The problem is not development - it's the type of development that's on offer. It's extractive, it's exploitative sometimes," he said.
"Sometimes the pillars of our communities are the people who are involved in damaging our communities and there's also a very close link between political donations and a laissez faire planning policy that allows development that wouldn't simply happen in most other parts of Europe," he claimed. "You have to ask yourself why.
"We've had relative peace now for a long time and still we're bending over backwards to certain activities that are seriously damaging both our economy and the social balance of communities.
"We've allowed 47,000 houses to be built in the countryside between 2000 and 2010 - that's the equivalent of a Derry-and-a-half being put into the countryside. We're allowing 97% planning approvals at the moment," he added.
Ten years ago, Northern Ireland was branded the "dirty corner" of the UK by a review of environmental governance, he said.
"The reality is that it's become a carve-up, not just politically between two intractable blocs, the DUP and Sinn Fein, but it's also been almost a physical carve-up of Northern Ireland," he said.
"And one of the victims of the peace process in this current political and economic analysis has been the environment. Some of the defining moments in that period have been the unravelling of the secret deals that take place between the major political parties. And usually it's the environment that pays the price for that."