Durkan solo run highlights need to sort out BMAP

Castlereagh Alliance Councillor Michael Long has expressed his concern that any actions by the Environment Minister Mark Durkan will do nothing to resolve the failure of the Executive to adopt the BMAP proposals.

This week, Councillor Long successfully proposed that the Council write to the OFMdFM to express concerns at the failure of the Executive to deal with this matter. This follows a previous response from the Environment Minister to the Council. Stating he had presented a paper to the Executive in December 2013 seeking Executive agreement to authorise his Department to adopt BMAP – but that the matter had been referred to a sub group to be progressed. He added that he was concerned by the ‘undue delay’.

Councillor Long said: “This solo run by the Minister is highly unlikely to resolve this matter satisfactorily but certainly underlines the need for the Executive to ensure that the BMAP proposals are finally adopted.

“Over the past couple of years, the Department has been relying on draft proposals to take decisions affecting the Greater Belfast area, and I believe that several planning applications have been delayed because of the uncertainty. In my area, a number of proposals relating to the green belt boundaries appear to have been affected and as a result I had asked for the Council to write to the Minister asking why the final adoption was being delayed. His response made it clear that the delay was at the Executive level and so we have just written to ask OFMDFM to explain the reason for the delay and urge for action.

“Whilst it may appear that the Minister has now moved the situation on, the reality is that the way he has done so will not actually resolve the situation and I would again call on the Executive as a whole to sort this matter out urgently. As a shadow Councillor for Belfast, I believe that it is vital that the proposals are adopted before planning powers are transferred to Councils next spring so that we can take decisions in line with an agreed overall strategy rather than in a piecemeal fashion.”

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