Belfast Telegraph

New laws are on the way to make this a better place

The Department of the Environment does much more than fix roads or decide planning issues as the minister, Edwin Poots, points out

Our environment forms, feeds, clothes, houses and supports us. As minister, my job is to make the environment better and safer for all of us. And I am passionate about this mission.

My department is working on an unprecedented legislative programme which will improve all our lives. Currently, I have legislation moving through the Assembly dealing with wildlife conservation, waste management, neighbourhood issues and high hedges.

MLAs’ postbags bulge with letters from people whose lives are blighted by neighbourhood nuisances — troubles as diverse as persistent noise, litter, dog fouling, graffiti or high hedges which cut out the light. To tackle these sorts of problem, I have introduced the Clean Neighbourhoods and High Hedges Bills. These will give councils powers to deal effectively and efficiently with such problems.

People living in some of our more established residential areas have found the character of their neighbourhoods eroded by overdevelopment.

Our newly-published planning policy will put a stop to this.

These measures will create more pleasant and peaceful neighbourhoods for you, the honest hardworking citizen.

By law, Northern Ireland must be recycling at least half its household waste by 2020.

Last year we recycled about a third. Waste, if recycled and re-used, is a valuable resource which we will exploit to its potential.

Contrary to what many people think, I am not the Roads Minister — that rests with the Minister for Regional Development. However, I am the minister for safety on the roads. Road death is decreasing — but not fast enough.

Every life lost on the road is a life wasted.

Our Driver and Vehicle Agency makes sure that only vehicles and drivers which are fit to be on the roads are permitted to be there.

I am determined to reduce casualties still further and will publish my new road safety strategy later this year.

When it is right for the people of Northern Ireland, and with the agreement of the Assembly, we join in UK-wide laws made at Westminster. For example, through the UK Climate Change Act we support UK Government efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and I am now leading work across departments here to determine how best we can achieve these targets.

I want to protect the environment and support our economy.

As planning authority and environmental regulator, DoE controls development and affects industry.

I am determined to protect the environment — and to do so without hampering legitimate economic activity. I am driving forward work to reform and speed up the planning system.

However, huge damage is being done to the economy by business with vested interest using the legal system to stifle competition. Thousands of jobs and tens of millions of pounds are being lost to the economy by the selfish actions of a few.

Our system for regulating industrial and other activities which impact on our water, air and land is complex. I want to make it simple so it works better for business and for the environment.

I will shortly publish proposals which will do just that. This will mean faster decisions — with less bureaucracy, less cost and appropriate sanctions for those who break the rules. It will mean that businesses which comply with the law are better off than those which damage our natural environment.

Whether it is in your home, in your car or in your business, the Department of the Environment is working hard to make your life more comfortable, safer and more productive.

Belfast Telegraph

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