Ulster Unionist Environment spokesperson, Tom Elliott MLA, has said he is astounded that the DUP have used a Petition of Concern to block a number of Ulster Unionist Party amendments to the Planning Bill which simply stated ‘protecting the environment’.
Mr Elliott said: “The Planning Bill is going through its various stages in the Assembly at the moment. One of the Bill clauses gives specific consideration to economic development, which I support as it is important that the economy is put to the fore in our attempts to re-vitalise the Northern Ireland community. However, it is also vital that we protect our environment and ensure that economic growth is both sustainable and responsible.
“My amendments were simply to recognise the importance of the environment. I didn`t think any Party or individual would have opposed a proposal to protect the environment.
“We now see the DUP issuing a Petition of Concern, not only against another Unionist Party, but also against the environment. Petitions of Concern were not put in place to be used in this way and this is an outright abuse of the mechanism. By tabling this Petition of Concern the DUP have vetoed these amendments, even if a clear majority of the Assembly decided to support them.
“It is not setting a good example nor providing a good basis for our community if MLAs will not support protecting the environment. The environment requires appropriate and suitable management. Not protecting our environment on the face of the legislation potentially opens the door for a gung-ho approach to planning, where political expediency takes precedence over a responsible, strategic approach. The DUP and their Sinn Fein partners will be solely responsible if that is the outcome.”