Anna Lo MLA said: “I am very pleased that the correct decision has been made to scrap this Bill. I already had a number of reservations around clauses which placed greater weight on economic issues rather than environmental considerations. However, amendments, tabled at the last minute by the DUP and Sinn Fein dramatically changed the purpose of the Bill and meant that, instead of improving our planning system, it would have made it worse.
“The Planning Bill was only ever going to be a stop gap piece of legislation until a number elements of a previous law come into effect when the new Council system begins. Northern Ireland will suffer very little by the decision to ditch this Bill.
“I do not believe that it was in the best interests of Northern Ireland for this Bill to become law, so I am delighted that it will no longer proceed.
“Brought as they were at the last second, these amendments were not subject to consultation or scrutiny. I stated my concerns that they contravened Human Rights law which is why I wrote to the Human Rights Commission seeking their views. The Minister has now indicated that he shares my concerns, which is why he has decided against progressing this Bill.
“The Environment sector reacted angrily to these proposals with many stating their concerns that the DUP and Sinn Fein could have been given free reign to allow any development within specific ‘economically significant zones’. This could have meant a green light for fracking, or further development with a negative impact on our built and natural heritage such as the development at Runkerry.”