Lo – Strangford Lough reports shows need for protection of the environment

Alliance Environment Spokesperson, Anna Lo MLA, has welcomed the report from the Northern Ireland Audit Office into the failure of the Departments of the Environment and Agriculture and Rural Development to protect the rare horse mussels in Strangford Lough. The report found that the Departments were slow to act, including only implementing non-disturbance zones in the lough in 2010, despite it being a target of a 2005 Restoration Plan.

Anna Lo MLA said: “This report has highlighted the need for the Executive to take greater action to safeguard our protected environmental areas.

“The Executive has a poor track record when it comes to our environment with the support from other parties for a golf course at the Giant’s Causeway that has since been dropped.

“We were at real risk of being financial penalised by Europe over our failure to protect the horse mussel habitat. An action plan has now been agreed between all sides, but if the Departments do not continue to meet their obligations, then the prospect of huge fines could reappear. It is a short-sighted policy to give the Environment Department the biggest budgetary cuts of all departments and we could see the potential consequences these financial constrains may have on our environment, thus creating a bigger risk on Northern Ireland failing to meet targets from various EU Directives.

“The report highlighted the lack of co-operation between the two Departments on this issue, something that I hope will be rectified following the reduction in the number of Departments. I just hope that the voice of one sector will not outweigh others. This reform has also raised the question over whether the environment agency should be given independent footing and placed outside of government control.”


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