Question Time: Environment Tuesday 10 February 2015

The Minister for Environment, Mark H Durkan began Oral Question time by answering a question by Jim Allister MLA on how current planning provision allows for the evaluation of large-scale solar farm applications.

The Minister stated "my Department determines planning applications for all renewable energy developments on a case-by-case basis against the provisions of planning policy statement 18 on renewable energy, its supplementary best practice guidance and all other material considerations. PPS 18 provides for the evaluation of all development that seeks to harness energy from renewables, including energy derived from solar. It aims to facilitate the siting of renewable energy generating facilities in appropriate locations in the built and natural environment". The Minister went on to confirm that he is aware that large-scale solar energy development is a matter of growing concern and it is his intention to ensure that the final strategic planning policy statement (SPPS) provides an appropriate level of strategic direction in relation to solar development.

The Environment Minister also answered questions on Councillors in the shadow councils and how they are being trained ahead of greater planning responsibilities and what discussions has the Minister had with the Finance Minister on ratepayers who are facing increased rate bills because of the amalgamation of council areas and the redrawing of local government boundaries.

The Environment Minister also answered questions on Beaches in South Down, Social Housing in West Belfast and Road safety and the Budget Impact during the 15 minutes period of Topical Questions.

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