Foundations For the Future, Northern Ireland


 The Review of Northern Ireland’s Environmental Governance.

Please find below a summary of the main points. This is my own interpretation and I hope that this helps in understanding a way forward. I apologise in advance for any misunderstandings or mis interpretations.

My view

  1. Considerations and potential opportunities for Natural Living Assets
  2. Summary of key recommendations  

 A.        My View

The review places much emphasis on the role of EU legislation and EU directives as drivers of environmental compliance. The need for a new agency to implement Environmental Governance comes across loud and clear. The Department of the Environment is recognised historically as the main body responsible for policing environmental protection. The failure of the DOE to effectively provide successful environmental governance is evident due to the difficulty of implementing EU directives given the political uniqueness of Northern Ireland. The DOE needs to evolve to an independent Environmental Protection Agency. The terms of reference define a desire to address the structure, management and resources of publicly funded Environmental Governance. A key principal of achieving sound environmental policing is the polluter pays principle which will be a key driver in the success of the new Environmental Protection Agency. (EPA)  


Northern Ireland is in a state of transition recovering form an historic conflict which over the years stifled efforts to implement European directives via the Department of the Environment.  The new era of devolution presents an opportunity to deliver higher environmental standards by setting up and independent Environmental Protection Agency which reflects the greater needs of the community.


I would like to ask, who is accountable for environmental management and who is responsible? Is it the legislative system, politicians, local councils, other non governmental organisations, businesses or simply you and I? Can the proposed

Independent Environmental Protection Agency achieve implementation of EU directives where the Department of Environment failed?

Community understanding of Sustainability

Therefore in addition to the environmental policing role of the EPA much more needs to be done to educate and communicate the imperatives of sustainability beyond legislation. I would see that independent Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) would have a role to play to deliver beyond legislative compliance, and to take responsibility for enhanced environmental controls, and sustainability. There are opportunities in education, research, environmental monitoring, recycling, entrepreneurial sustainable energy programmes, habitat improvement schemes and a general commitment form business to gain competitive advantage from their commitment to environmental improvements.  NGOs can provide these services.

Creativity and Innovation

A huge number of ideas and innovations can come form many non governmental organisations, businesses and individuals. Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and voluntary organisations are vital to sustainability in Northern Ireland and I hope that they are given an opportunity to flourish when working with NIEPA (Northern Ireland Environmental Protection Agency) and that groups like Invest NI, Invest Ireland can embrace the opportunities that will ensue from a sustainability agenda. A superior quality of living in Northern Ireland beckons when the new EPA leads the way.


Where are the sources of funding for NGOs to meet the needs of NI Sustainability?

We can all do our bit for sustainability        

The message that each one of us is individually responsible for our own bit of the environment and that of our neighbours beyond complying with the law or European directives needs to be well communicated.

There is much more therefore to be done to define and encourage ideas beyond the scope of this review on legislative policing of the environment. The review whilst welcome and a real opportunity for progress addressed one aspect of environmental control. A similar report could go as long way to defining entrepreneurial solutions to environmental problems to achieve a truly sustainable future 

Re organisation of the DOE into a new independent environmental Protection Agency would contribute much when it can concentrate the efforts beyond historic constraints that prevented progress with implementing European Directives. 

I look forward to hearing in the near future further specific desired outcomes for the new independent EPA defined by the people of Northern Ireland to meet sustainability targets and of further plans to develop the independent innovate sector for sustainability.



  B.        Considerations for Natural Living Assets

 Does Northern Ireland know what it wants to do with its environment?

The context for environmental management and sustainability need to be defined further?

Years of conflict unique to NI has created a working and cultural environment where people are moving on to a brighter and better future. People now have the freedom to shop invest and move about freely travelling from town to town unhindered, without fear of  being caught up in an incident. 

Many EU directives have not been implemented and a real opportunity now exists to move forward and raise the environmental standards in NI to secure a healthier and more prosperous future. This review has provided a skeleton foundation and will facilitate further progress but points to much more yet to be done. NGOs and other groups with an interest in environmental sustainability need to be encouraged and take advantage of the new opportunities to participate and pursue their own environmental plans and contribute to sustainability in Northern Ireland. The need for co operation with the south was mentioned briefly but it will be vital to ensure that moves to facilitate co operation and working together continue to consolidate sustainability throughout Ireland.

Natural Living Assets

From my own point of view I need to work on my own model that facilitates a responsible caring of environmental management that appeals to responsibility beyond legislative compliance. Pursuing a sustainability agenda in businesses can only lead to future competitive advantages in the long run and add value to our future lives. Natural Living Assets aims to enhance communications, define outcomes, persuade and provide solutions that add value to the future. Compliance with environmental legislation is only one necessary part of the overall solution. Natural Living Assets will conduct similar research to identify a need that people are interested in that would switch them onto a sustainability agenda. It will take time to build a solution centred approach but starting with market analysis should provide the questions followed by the answers. I plan to devise a questionnaire to provide the basis of a structured interview, select key people to see, produce and analysis report feedback and add value to the future.

In the review Foundations For the Future various institutions were contacted and asked about four issues

 My questionnaire should build on this and include more questions to ascertain opportunities in the market place to promote sustainability and to carve out a subsistence niche whilst adding value to my life, and family.

 1. What are your responsibilities for the environment?

Further and in addition to NI review I would like to explore desire for sustainability. (It is one thing to comply and another to be fully committed to act pro actively.

What obstacles do you encounter to implement sound environmental policies?

What action can you take and what can I do for you.

What would you like to achieve (need to quote the aims of review and define how I will add and explore a different dimension.)

Try and see web site. Poor response to website discussion reported.

What are the terms of reference re the review?

One of my opportunities with Natural Living Assets is to stimulate and follow up on further debate.

Other questions I would like to ask include

To what extent will the environmental agenda affect your working practices?

How important is it to you that the environment is valued for its true economic / socio economic value?

Howe important is it to you that sustainability is factored into your management decisions.

What impact will devolution have on moving forward for you and for this agenda?

How important are the following in your decision-making

Global Warming


Naturally produced products eg Fish, Agricultural commodities

Habitat protection

Is it important to you that there are fish in your local river?

 it important to you that you can play in clean unpolluted waterways?

In a state of moving away form the troubles where problems with security human rights dominated to a situation where the environmental problems can be more fully and openly addressed.

The role for me is to keep environmental decision-making a political but to build on economic and socio economic agenda.



As with any complex political issue it can be challenging to make sense of large reports such as the one published. I hope to dig behind the jargon.

For example “The review was conscious that it was not tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of the current suite of environmental policies in Northern Ireland. Rather its challenge was to identify how the assets available to NI’s environment might be better arranged to deliver high quality and more consistent environmental outcomes. In thinking about these assets the review addressed the focus, structure, roles and relationships between the various elements of the governance regime”

7.4 “ The machinery for accountability essential for modern good governance of the environment must therefore reach beyond looking at the performance of those public bodies with direct responsibilities for environmental management to incorporate scrutiny of the discharge of other Govt departments and agencies of their environmental responsibilities.

As I see it, the review, as explained within, was to consult with all interested parties.  82 organisations were invited to the various review meetings. Most of these replied submitted written replies or met with the review committee. (All listed in the annexes of the review) 

This included

Central Government bodies

Economic interests



Research Institutions

Non departmental bodies


26 other bodies outside Northern Ireland from Ireland, UK, Scotland and Europe were visited to identify policies for sound environmental management. These are available on Annex 5. Scotland was mentioned as an example where environmental management practices are well advanced. Perhaps Scotland could provide a benchmark without undermining the uniqueness of environment and culture in Northern Ireland.

In the review Foundations For the Future various institutions were contacted and asked the four questions below.

What are your responsibilities concerning the protection or management of the environment or why does the environment mater to you?

  1. What experiences have you of institutional obstacles functional limitations or relationship barriers that have inhibited effective environmental protection and /or enhancement?
  2. What remedies or solutions do you envisage to these problems?
  3. What opportunities for better environmental management would be created for you if change occurred?

The EU has a big role to play in regulating the environment via the various directives

Water framework directive but it will be critical in Northern Ireland for to facilitate cross border working and incorporate NSMC North south ministerial council and

BIC British Irish Council into plans

 Fines management was formally a UK responsibility via DOE. The UK was responsible via DOE the collect the fine when there was a pollution incident. In 1998 that responsibility was handed to Stormont. In NI there is generally a poor record of environmental compliance. Scope for improved Env management in NI. Perhaps could look to Scotland and SEPA model.

Need for Cultural organisational change

It was pointed out that the DOE works in a European context and looks to pro active POLICY engagement and currently there is a need for organisational cultural change to represent environmental policy at EU level.

This has led to specific problems for implementation of environmental directives in Northern Ireland including.

Delays in sewage infrastructure projects.

Compromised environmental regulation.

Failure to meet EU waste targets.

Fialure to designate and comply with Habitiat directives

Failure to undertake monitioring to EU standards

Failure to design water charging process

Concern about NI to met water standards

Weak environmental data management.

There is to be a review by RPP( Public Administration which proposes changes in local govt. currently there are 26 councils. Propose a cut to 7

Traditional councils have had a consultative role re things like air quality, waste collection, public nuisance, noise, smell, litter

There is a need for cross border approach

Eg Aggregates

smuggling of virgin stone


Many opportunities stem form the end of conflict and a need to catch up with implantation of environmental policies. As a consequence there are currently many unmet social and environmental needs due to neglected environmental governance

A society in transition presents huge opportunities. There is a back log of EU directives and a need for more reports of progress and audits. Lifting of Crown Immunity for water and sewage is a key area to address.

There is much more research required to assess NGO growth and opportunities in the  

Launch of renewable energy fund

Publishing a sustainable development strategy

Role for environmental policing which is focused on the environment, not biased nor one sided.

Need for greater environmental governance

(Perhaps the review could have contained more about North south co operation)

3.41 “ summary “

Support knowledge development of environment

Change of structure

DOE traditional overseer

PEPG DOE’s Planning and Environmental Policy Group.

There is a requirement for organisational change

Look for synergies



Formal training for policy staff, officers and politicians so that they can participate fully in discussions re environmental policy developments.

There is a role for Natural Living Assets here.


A white paper to be produced to provide clear focus for the public and professional debate on the future of the environment in NI to accelerate regeneration and well being. Keep an eye on


 Department of Environment should have responsibility for


Spatial Planning

Integrated Coastal Zone management

Sustainable water management

Water abstraction

Water levels

Flooding and drainage

Inland fisheries

Inland waterways

Local govt and community planning

Environmental health 


Policy development to be a priority and a specialism.

There is a need to support career paths and promotion of officials in

Environmental planning

Environmental science

Environmental economics

Is there a role for NGO to facilitate?


The Doe should develop , publish and implement a strategy to develop formal links between the knowledge communities involved I the environment and look to other established environmental policies such as in Scotland re SEPA.

 Networking opportunities for Natural Living Assets


Responsibility for environmental regulation in NI should be transferred to a

 new independent environmental protection agency


The proposed agencies principal statutory purpose would be to protect and enhance the environment and in doing so contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.

 The new agency would be responsible for

Pollution Prevention and control

Waste management

Protection of species and habitats

Sustainable water management, including abstraction and drainage

Licensing of river basin catchment management

Sustainable inland fisheries

I.e. specifically to

Prevent flooding and pollution incidents

Reduction of Industrial impacts on the environment

Promotion of Biodiversity

Protection and enhancement of the built environment and cultural heritage

Conservations and enhancement of natural beauty

Amenity and quality of inland and coast

And the land associated with including ICM integrated Coastal management.


Structure recommended

The new EPA should be a non departmental body sponsored by the DOE

Duties and functions should be embodied in statute.

12 member board

Appointed by the Minister for the Environment Arlene Foster

Appointees should be treated as employees of the agency as opposed to NIcivil service

Annual reports required and an Iconic building


 EPA responsible for strategic marine planning should remain with the central government and should be brigaded with environmental policy within DOE.?


Govt must allocate sufficient additional resources to expediate completion of the suite of action plans for NI


The newly proposed EPA should be given statutory powers to challenge acts or omissions by local government in the discharge of planning powers. Such challenges should be in the public interest. 


The planning and water appeals commission should restructured and developed to create a new environmental tribunal

13. The proposed EPA should be a statutory authority. Development consent should not be granted unless planning authority is in receipt of and opinion from the proposed EPA or the EPA has waived its obligation to comment.

The planning enforcement function should be retained with central government on the transfer of development control to local government.

  1. NI should delay decision making concerning proposals set out in the recent Marine White Paper “A Sea Change”, until it has determined the region’s priorities. Northern Ireland’s MMO should not be sponsored by DEFRA 



The Northern Ireland Act; practically all responsibility for environmental protection is now devolved to the Northern Ireland assembly. UK retains the right to set emission limits and quality standards

Some Directives from Europe to consider

Strategic Environmental assessment directive

Environmental liability directive

Regulatory Education and authorisation of chemicals REACH 

Flood directive

EU’s environmental Justice Agenda

EU Marine strategy

Comments are closed.