The Environment Minister Mark H Durkan answered questions on a range of matters including bus operator licensing, community planning and the management of Dunluce Castle in County Antrim as a tourist attraction.
Bus Operators: Licensing
Mr Humphrey asked the Minister of the Environment for an update on the current proposals regarding the licensing of bus operators.
The Minister stated that “we are finalising proposals for a new bus operator licensing regime to replace both the road service licence and the 10B permit with a tiered licensing regime that better meets the needs of modern bus transport and is compliant with the requirements of EU regulations. It is generally agreed by industry stakeholders that the current scheme, which is 47 years old, is outdated and no longer able to support the diversity of passenger transport being delivered in the 21st century”.
The Minister stated that Dunluce Castle is one of Northern Ireland’s premier tourist attractions, and the decline in visitor numbers over the past few years does not reflect its true historical and economic potential. That is why the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has already undertaken substantive steps to address the issue. NIEA has established an innovation trial to create a world-class visitor experience that does justice to these iconic ruins and brings economic benefits to the region.
The agency is working with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, which has identified Dunluce as a key site on the Causeway coastal route. Together, they are taking a more innovative approach to visitor engagement to ensure that the new experience at Dunluce is enjoyed by all ages and through all seasons. Creating this readily accessible must-see destination will involve new site infrastructure, a wide variety of exhibitions and live events and the provision of breathtaking viewing platforms.
During topical questions the Minister discussed the Waste Crime and Illegal Dumping, Penalty Points and Terrorist Shrines.