Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Poots: We must assist people in rural areas to live off land

People who live in wildlife hotspots need to be able to make a living from the land, according to Edwin Poots.

The Lagan Valley DUP MLA, who is expected to take over from Sammy Wilson as Environment Minister, said the Government needs to help landowners to look after Areas of Special Scientific |Interest (ASSIs).

He said he was opposed to imposing sanctions that make it impossible for people to make a living. “I’m looking for outcomes rather than processes.

“The Government in general tend to concentrate greatly on processes and less on outcomes,” he said.

Mr Poots said he was keen to protect the wider environment in Northern Ireland but also boost the economy.

“Are those two things running contrary to each other? I don’t believe they are. I will be talking to the civil servants and asking how do we get there,” he said.

“I will be challenging people within DoE that what we need to do for the people of Northern Ireland is deliver an enhanced environment and enhance opportunities by making available facilities such as recreational facilities.

“If we develop Lough Neagh as a centre for tourism, is there any reason why we can’t do that without damaging the environment? My suspicion is we probably can.”

The minister-in-waiting also said one of the biggest issues raised by the public is the difficulty of getting a straight yes or no from the Planning Service, as there is a lot of “procrastination”.

“I will be looking at Scotland and the Republic and other places where planning decisions can be turned around much quicker.

“If they are adhering to same human rights legislation in |Europe and the same environmental legislation in Europe but they can do it quicker, what is the |problem?” he asked.

Northern Ireland needs to be able to take advantage of economic opportunities when they arise, while also carrying out a full |planning process that doesn’t dissuade investors from coming here, Mr Poots stated.

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