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Hydroelectric Schemes: Run-of-River

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Cathal Ó hOisín Cathal Ó hOisín Sinn Féin 2:15 pm, 13th October 2015

6. Mr Ó hOisín asked the Minister of the Environment when he plans to introduce guidelines and a design brief for run-of-river hydroelectric schemes. (AQO 8857/11-16)

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

An interdepartmental group has been established to take forward an agreed guidance and policy document for run-of-river hydroelectric schemes. The interdepartmental group comprises DCAL, the Loughs Agency, the Rivers Agency, DOE planning officials and the NIEA. The guidance and policy document will set out clearly the requirements for each of the various Departments. It is not the intention to provide a design brief for these installations. It is anticipated that the group will produce an interdepartmental guidance and policy document by summer 2016.

Photo of Cathal Ó hOisín Cathal Ó hOisín Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as ucht an fhreagra sin. I thank the Minister for his answer. He will be aware that a design brief and guidelines exist in the other jurisdictions on these islands. Does he not agree that, given the numbers of hydro schemes being installed in rivers at the moment, it would be opportune to develop such guidelines in accordance and in consultation with angling clubs and groups?

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thanks to Mr Ó hOisín for that. I take on board the Member's comments or suggestions, and think that that is always useful, as it certainly will be in this case, to look at the practice in other jurisdictions. He also touched on a very important matter, which is consultation with river users who, primarily, are anglers. I get plenty of correspondence from anglers on this and many other issues. I know that many are very opinionated, but there is a great degree of expertise in the angling community that I believe that I, as Minister, and we, as a Department, should be availing ourselves of and utilising to get the best outcomes for our environment.

Photo of Colum Eastwood Colum Eastwood Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Minister will be very aware of the real concerns that the anglers on the River Faughan have with some of these applications. Can he give us an update on where those applications are at?

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

They are in the River Faughan.

[Laughter.]

I thank Mr Eastwood for that question. My Department retained three planning applications for hydroelectric power schemes on the Faughan and a further application associated with one of those schemes for the proposed installation of a fish pass. I recently issued a notice of opinion to refuse planning permission for A/2011/0237/F, a proposal at Crockahilly Road, Claudy on the grounds of the potential impact on nature conservation interests and the loss of active peat. The applicant can, of course, request a hearing before the Planning Appeals Commission if they do not accept those reasons. Consideration of the remaining applications is ongoing. I will be the final decision-maker and will fully consider all the relevant issues and all the relevant correspondence that I have received before deciding on the way forward.