Minister of the Environment, Mark Durkan, was questioned on the department’s recycling strategy during Question Time. The Minister revealed that the recently published revised waste management strategy “includes higher targets for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste”. The focus of the strategy has shifted from resource management to resource efficiency. The target rate of packaging recycling by 2017 is 72.7% - significantly higher than the minimum target set out in the EU packaging directive. In the past four years, more than £10m has been invested from the Rethink Waste fund to over 100 projects that boost waste prevention and recycling. Recent surveys have also shown that around half of shoppers are now frequently re-using carrier bags after the introduction of the 5p single-use carrier bag levy.
The Minister also provided an update on the stalled Planning Bill in response to a question from Jo-Anne Dobson. The future of the Bill has been uncertain since the Minister addressed the Assembly in October to say that he would be halting the process based on legal advice fearing that proposed amendments to the Bill threatened a dilution of his department’s powers. The Minister revealed that he has now met with the First Minster and deputy First Minister regarding the matter, saying that it was a “positive engagement and raised a number of issues that I now want carefully and diligently to consider.” He remains committed to speeding up and improving the planning system so that it “plays its full role in supporting economic recovery and sustainable development”. He also said that the feedback he has received in response to stalling the Bill has been “very positive”.
During topical questions, Gregory Campbell asked the Minister what discussions he has had with the Minister of Justice regarding the use of speed detection vans. While Mr Durkan conceded that he has yet to discuss the matter with the Justice Minister, he acknowledged the negative public perception surrounding speed detection vans affirming that “I am determined that resources should be allocated where they are needed to reduce accidents, not to boost the coffers”. The Minister also updated the House on the proposed Road Traffic (Drink Driving) (Amendment) Bill. He hopes to introduce the Bill early next year and that it “will play an important role in driving down the carnage on our roads”.