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Dept of Environment Disgraced by Bureaucracy

 

CLLR CADOGAN ENRIGHT SLAMS ‘BUREAUCRACY GONE MAD’ AT DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT

Cllr Cadogan Enright with Lecale Conservation Chair John Peacocke

Cllr Cadogan Enright with Lecale Conservation Chair John Peacocke

Cllr Enright has been campaigning since early 2008 on behalf of local people in the Minerstown area to introduce beach bye-laws to protect the seal colony and shore-nesting birds during the breeding season. His motion was supported by all other parties and he assisted Lecale Conservation and local residents make a presentation to Council Management of the severe problems being encountered due to lack of protection.

Cadogan Enright said, “Council management moved rapidly in May 2008, to prepare draft bye-laws for internal consultation, and sent an amended  draft bye-laws of the bye-laws for inspection by legal services as early as November of 2008. It should have been a routine approval by the Department of the Environment by January 2009.  But almost a year and a half later in August of 2009 lawyers for the Department advised the Council that they did not have the right to make bye-laws and thus bye-laws for Newcastle Promenade and even the Tyrella blue-flag beach were effectively being struck down.”

“Although we did not agree with this assessment by the Departments legal team, Down Council’s own legal officer moved rapidly to have the ‘vires’ of the council altered to allow the council to issue bye-laws, but a year and a half of delays ensued as civil servants failed to deliver the order to the Minister for his signature. Finally, local Environmentalists from Killough, Minerstown, Lecale Conservation and myself visited Minister Poots in his office in Belfast and the Minster gave an assurance that there would be no further delays, and within a few months the order was signed in January of 2010.”

“Everyone then assumed that given the importance of the Tourist Trade to Down District, the Department would not dally any further  with helping the Council restore bye-laws to vital areas like Tyrella, Murlough, Newcastle as well as protect wildlife in Minerstown. But we were wrong. ” Said Cadogan.

“The Department has now exceeded its previous excess of bureaucracy with a new wave of unnecessary and sometimes down-right ridiculous queries that would prompt me to nominate those involved for the ‘bungler of the year award’ if such an award existed. Council officers have been frustrated in their efforts to restore bye-laws to Down District.”

Cllr Enright said “As this saga is now four years long, and because Down District could be seriously embarrassed by the Department preventing it from bringing in bye-laws for areas we are responsible, I have finally asked council staff under FoI to list the often rediculous queries they have had to deal with from the department.”

Cllr Enright said, “I intend to publish these on my web-site and refer them to Minister Attwood, to show the extent of incompetence of the Department in dealing with a such a routine issue as a local Council trying to create a bye-law.”

“All this time the problems on the beach became worse and in 2010 50% of all seal pups that had to be rescued in Northern Ireland came from the Minerstown / Bannykinlar coastal area, primarily due to distrbance by visitors to the beach who were unaware of the impact of interfering with the seals when nursing their young. I have no idea if this incompetency could lose Tyrella its blue-flag status, but this incompetency is damaging the councils ability to deliver services and support Tourism across the district.” Concluded Cllr Cadogan Enright.

SEE BELOW FOR HISTORY OF BUREAUCRACY 

22 May 2008 Draft Bye-laws forwarded to Legal Services.
28 November 2008 Amended Draft Bye-laws returned to Council from Legal Services.
12 January 2009 Following period of internal consultation draft Bye-laws returned to Legal Services.
11 February 2009 Council’s Solicitor advised that draft Bye-laws had been forwarded to the Department for consideration.
13 August 2009 Department advised that in order to have jurisdiction to make Bye-laws for the Seashore and Newcastle Promenade an order had to be made to extend Sections 82 and 83 of the Public Health Acts (Amendment) Act 1907 to the District.This meant that the existing Bye-laws dated16 February 1998forNewcastleand Tyrella Beaches had never been valid.
8 October 2009 Following public advertisement by the Council the Council’s Solicitor was asked to apply to the Department to have the legislation extended to the District.
22 October 2009 The Council’s Solicitor confirmed that the application to the Department had been made.
25 January 2010 Following several reminders to the Council’s Solicitor regarding the application she wrote to the Department pressing for a response.
22 January 2010 The Department advised that papers seeking Ministerial consent had been drafted and would be forwarded to the Departmental Solicitor for approval.
8 March 2010 Council’s Solicitor wrote to advise she was still awaiting a response from the Department.
19 March 2010 Department advised that papers had been sent to Departmental Solicitor on 8 February 2010, were acknowledged 15 July 2010 but it would be up to 6 weeks before the matter could be dealt with.
6 May 2010 Department advised that a response had been received from the Departmental Solicitor and the Council would be advised of the comments shortly.
26 June 2010 Meeting held with Council’s Solicitor regarding outstanding queries on the Bye-law and letter confirming queries forwarded22 June 2010.
23 June 2010 Following reminders on the matter the Department advised that amendments had been made to the papers and a further draft was with senior management for approval before re-issue to the Departmental Solicitor for final clearance.  It was hoped the Order would be in place around September 2010.
9 July 2010 Letter regarding outstanding queries sent to Department from Council’s Solicitor.
9 July 2010 Letter regarding further queriesreceived from Council’s Solicitor.
5 August 2010 Response forwarded to Council’s Solicitor 5 August 2010.
6 September 2010 Response forwarded to Department from Council’s Solicitor.
7 October 2010 Letter from Edwin Poots, Minister of the Environment, advising that the final draft Order would be agreed shortly and be in place by the end of October.
13 January 2011 Order confirmed as made to come into operation4 February 2011.
8 February 2011 Letter received from Council’s Solicitor confirming enabling legislation had been made and that we were in a position to move forward with the Bye-laws.
10 February 2011 Most recent set of Bye-laws received from Council’s Solicitor with queries over the map attached to the Bye-laws.
7 March 2011 Letter received from Council’s Solicitor enclosing amended draft Bye-lawsreflecting comments made by the Department.
11 March 2011 Revised map forwarded to Council’s Solicitor.
14 March 2011 Council’s Solicitor confirmed the map to be in order.
23 March 2011 Council’s Solicitor asked to confirm that the Bye-laws could go for public consultation.
12 April 2011 Revised Bye-laws received from Council’s Solicitor.
24 May 2011 Letter forwarded to Council’s Solicitor asking that the Department be pressed that the Council could move to public consultation on the draft Bye-laws.
26 May 2011 Letter received from Council’s Solicitor outlining the process for making the Bye-laws.
29 June 2011 Letter received from Council’s Solicitor as to why Bye-laws for Minerstown andMurloughBeacheswere not included within those forNewcastleBeachand Promenade.
7 June 2011 Council’s Solicitor requested to forward Bye-laws dated16 February 1998to Department.
15 July 2011 Substantive issues responded to via letter to Council’s Solicitor.
15 July 2011 Letter issued to Council’s Solicitor expressing frustration at Department’s approach to “composite” Bye-laws and suggesting a meeting to discuss.
25 July 2011 Email received from Department as to why the Murlough andMinerstownBeachBye-laws were not covered under those relating to Newcastle Seashore and Promenade.
25 July 2011 Response issued from Council advising that each facility had its own requirements and a “generic set” of Bye-laws would make confusing reading for the public.
31 August 2011 Email forwarded to Council’s Solicitor regarding the need for individual Bye-laws to take account of the needs of individual facilities.
5 September 2011 Email forwarded to Council’s Solicitor advising that Bye-laws were to be kept “facility specific”.
7 September 2011 Copy letter received from Council’s Solicitor asking that the Department approve the draft Bye-laws forNewcastleBeachand Promenade.
5 September 2011 Council advised its Solicitor that the point regarding existing Bye-laws was reclindent  as the enabling legislation had not been in place therefore they were redundant.
12 October 2011 Email forwarded to Council’s Solicitor that in order to go to public consultation on the draft Bye-laws.
12 October 2011 Onward email confirmed from Council’s Solicitor that in order to go to public consultation.
15 October 2011 Email received from Council’s Solicitor asking Council to hold off on public consultation until a response is received from the Department.
4 November 2011 Letter from Council’s Solicitor regarding further comments from Department.
10 November 2011 Further letter sent to Council’s Solicitor on above point and requesting that the Development urgently confirm it was in order to go to public consultation.
10 November 2011 Letter sent to Council’s Solicitor regarding outstanding issues.
12 December 2011 Reminder letter to Council Solicitor regarding current position.
19 December 2011 Letter received from Council’s Solicitor copying correspondence to Department regarding why we can’t move to public consultation.
19 December 2011 Letter received from Council’s Solicitor raising further substantive comments from Department.
4 January 2012 All substantive issues responded to via letter to Council’s Solicitor.

 

27 March 2013 

 

Email from Council’s Solicitor enclosing draft letter to DOE LGPD and amended draft Byelaws for approval. 
14 April 2013

 

Email to Council’s Solicitor confirming further amendment and approval to proceed on basis of revised draft.
25 April 2013

 

 

 

Copy letter received from Council’s Solicitor to DOE LGPD forwarding amended draft Byelaws and asking for final approval.

 

17 May 2013  Email from DOE LGPD requesting copy of 1998 byelaws. 
22 May 2013  Copy of 1998 Byelaws forwarded to Council’s Solicitor. 
7 June 2013 

 

 

Letter forwarded to Minister for the Environment asking that he review the current process for making Byelaws with a view to making it more efficient and effective. 
14 June 2013  Acknowledgement letter received from DOE Private Office. 
29 June 2013 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter received from Minister advising that his Department intended to review and if necessary, amend the procedures for confirmation of Byelaws by 31 December 2013.   He had also asked officials in his Department to meet with Council Officers at the earliest opportunity in order to move towards a successful conclusion in moving the outstanding Byelaw applications forward.
18 July 2013 

 

 

Email received from DOE official in relation to a meeting – officer due to go on leave from beginning of August until the 20th.
30 July 2013 

 

 

 

Letter from DOE advising that the Department had instructed its legal side to give immediate priority to addressing the outstanding issues for the Byelaw applications for Newcastle, Minerstown and Murlough.
1 August 2013  Response to DOE seeking dates for meeting. 
2 August 2013 

 

Email from DOE advising of dates and confirming current position with outstanding Byelaw applications. 
12 August 2013 

 

Item on Council Agenda seeking clarification as to who should attend a meeting with DOE officials. 
14 August 2013 

 

 

 

Email from Council’s Solicitor advising that the Department had reverted with minor amendments to the Byelaws.  Council’s Solicitor had made amendments and sought clarification on extent of Byelaws. 
9 September 2013  Update report on Byelaws noted by Council Meeting. 
10 September 2013  Clarification on extent of Byelaws provided to Council’s Solicitor.
13 September 2013

 

 

Council’s Solicitor asked for confirmation from Department that approval for the Byelaws had been granted.

 

14 October 2013 

 

Council’s Solicitor asked to confirm with Department that in order to go to public consultation.

 

BALLYKINLAR SEAL COLONY UNDER THREAT

 

Local Councillor Cadogan Enright has been working with seal biologist Sue Wilson on devising methods whereby the local community, the Down District Council, Army Camp Authorities and the PSNI can cooperate together to preserve the important colonies of breeding seals at Ballykinlar

Cllr Cadogan Enright said, “The local seal colonies have suffered intense disturbance in recent years with many deaths recorded and rescues being required where seal pups have become separated from their mothers. The only County Down seals needing rescue so far this year have come from the Dundrum Bay area. Three are currently being cared for at Exploris in Strangford, while two have been sent down to the Irish Seal Sanctuary in Wexford.”

Sue Wilson said, “The easiest way to prevent seal disturbance, separation of pups from mothers and seal deaths is for people to stay well back from the area were the seals gather. At least 200 metres is required and people and dogs should not be allowed to approach the colony, either on foot or in a car or in any water craft. Jet-skis in particular can cause seal deaths. It is actually a criminal offence to disturb seals, with severe penalties attached, but most people seem not to know this, and do not understand that they are breaking the law by approaching seals and causing them to rush into the water. However, it is my experience that most people, when they realise the serious disturbance that human activities can cause around seals, will willingly stay at a safe distance. This safe distance for seals on shore is called the ‘flight distance’, and is usually about 200m. Seals are very vigilant, and look up from their sleep every minute or so to check that there is no danger. If they spot movement within their flight distance, they will alert the colony and this may precipitate a rush for the water. Over the last few weeks there have been disturbances of seal groups with newborn pups. Older seals will also start moulting soon and will need to spend time ashore to get their new coats – the same rules apply and anybody wanting to observe should do so from more than 200 metres, with binoculars if they wish. Jet skis should stay further away than this so as not to strike seals in the water around the colony The Council is going to put new signs up along the beach to warn people, but signs cannot be everywhere – people need to have the knowledge themselves and be aware”.

Cllr Enright concluded, “Local people working in conjunction with the authorities can come up with better ways to protect this long-standing asset in Ballykinlar and Dundrum Bay for the benefit of our children and children’s children. Regardless of this, the most effective way to protect the seals is for local people to be aware that approaching within 200 yards of them causes disturbance and problems for our local seal colony. This applies not just to Ballykinlar and Dundrum, but along the whole Lecale and Mourne Coast down to Carlingford, and also to Strangford Lough where we also have seal colonies too.

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