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PPS 5

environment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 5th October 2009.

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Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP 3:00 pm, 5th October 2009

1. asked the Minister of the Environment to provide an update on draft PPS 5.            (AQO 150/10)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

My Department is still awaiting the outcome of the judicial challenge to draft PPS 5, which was heard in the High Court in January 2009.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Order. Members who are leaving should do so quietly.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I have finished my response, but in case it was not heard I will give it again. My Department is still awaiting the outcome of the judicial challenge to draft PPS 5, which was heard in the High Court in January 2009.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

The absence of a robust planning policy statement governing retail and town centres is putting our town centres at risk. Minister Campbell announced a review of PPS 5 in 2000, and the draft PPS was published in 2006. Can the Minister explain why, some 29 months later, the review and the new PPS 5 have not yet been adopted?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for his question. I could almost be as tetchy as the deputy First Minister in my response on this issue, because it irritates me greatly that the judicial challenge has been sitting with the High Court since January this year and that developers would take this House to court on the issue for their own pecuniary interests against the interests of the wider public in Northern Ireland. The PPS 5 document is ready to go. It will help to secure our town centres, and it is repulsive that developers would challenge that document purely for their own personal gain against the public interest.

Photo of Ian McCrea Ian McCrea DUP

I welcome the Minister’s answer so far. I also find it unacceptable that developers would take such action on such an important issue. Does the Minister agree with me that the delay due to the legal proceedings has put town centres, especially local businesses, in danger?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I absolutely agree. Town centres are being put at risk, and jobs are being lost. Although it may suit some individuals to carry out such actions, and I have no control over how courts do things, I wish that a decision could be made as quickly as possible so that we can move on, whatever decision the court makes.

Photo of Declan O'Loan Declan O'Loan Social Democratic and Labour Party

Does the Minister agree with me that multinational companies have enormous economic power and that policy must therefore aim at ensuring a level playing field? Will he therefore ensure that draft PPS 5, when it emerges, will protect local independent business and, in particular, will minimise the obstacles to new local businesses starting up?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

That is the idea behind PPS 5. However, it must always be recognised that, in a democratic state, we cannot control who chooses to invest or where that investment is made. We must make our region as attractive to investors as possible, and I want to do that through how I deal with planning. I will encourage a process that is quick, efficient and fair.