During today’s Question Time Environment Minister, Mark Durkan, revealed the changes he is making to the Environmental Crime Unit as a result of the recent Criminal Justice Inspection review of the Unit. The review recommended that the Department develops a more rigorous approach to dealing with environmental crime offenders. A new temporary Head of the environmental crime unit has been appointed with a view to ensuring the vital role is filled on a permanent basis. Guidelines have been developed for levels of enforcement and how to prioritise investigations. Officials are also investigating how to advance the mechanism for reporting environmental incidents with the view that “the easier it is to let us know, the more likely it will be that people will tell us about environmental offending and allow us to take action.” The Minister added that “it is clear that the impact of environmental crime on daily life here should not be underestimated. As I have said here before, it is not a victimless crime.”
During the topical question period Mr Durkan discussed the plans to increase tractor speed limits. The Minister explained that the vast majority of accidents in which speed and tractors were in involved occurred as a result of the tractor travelling too slowly. A consultation document has recently been released proposing that the speed limit for tractors is increased from 20mph to 25 mph. The document also addresses the issue of tractors towing large trailers and the possibility of increasing the maximum combined weight. The closing date of the consultation is 7 July 2015 and the Minister was eager to encourage replies, not just from individual stakeholders, but from the parties in the Chamber as well.
During Question Time the Minister also answered questions on maintenance of the Roe Valley Country Park, wind turbine planning applications, the Local Government Staff Commission and the burning of tyres on bonfires.