Six environmental organisations have joined forces to call on a controversial law going through Stormont to be dropped.
The organisations issued a united statement calling on Environment Minister Mark H Durkan to withdraw the Planning Bill, amid claims that it would prioritise economic development above the long-term needs of Ulster’s environment.
In a statement yesterday, the RSPB’s Dr James Robinson said: “Economic development and nature do not need to be mutually exclusive. The bill in its current form reinforces this false division of putting the economy against the natural environment.”
It comes after the News Letter revealed on Wednesday that legal advice was given to the Department of the Environment (DoE), saying that some aspects of the bill would be unlawful under EU rules.
The advice raised concerns about DUP-Sinn Fein amendments in June which would give the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister power to decide planning applications directly in areas deemed “economically significant”.
The opinion it would be unlawful came from top London QC David Elvin, and Dr Robinson added: “This advice should not be ignored.”
The organisations involved in yesterday’s statement include the RSPB, the National Trust, Northern Ireland Environment Link, Friends of the Earth, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and Community Places.
The concerns were put to the DoE, but it said it had nothing to add to a statement which the minister gave earlier in the week, which highlighted that he is “taking stock”.