The Minutes of the Monthly Environment and Regeneration Committee held on 15 November 2017 (ER222/17-ER241/17) were submitted.
On a point of accuracy Councillor Hastings advised that it was he and not Alderman Hussey who had declared an interest in item ER237/17 – Magheramason Play Provision Update - as a Member of the Rural Development Group.
On a point of accuracy Alderman Hussey referred to item ER227/17 and said he had referred to the proposed closure of 11 Bank of Ireland branches and not 10 as stated in the Minutes.
It was agreed that the Minutes would be amended accordingly.
Subsequently Councillor Dobbins Moved, Councillor Hastings Seconded and the Council
Resolved that the above Minutes, as amended, be adopted as a true record of the Meeting.
Matters Arising from the Minutes
C326/17 Sustainable NI (Ref ER226/17)
Councillor Gallagher expressed concern that a question he had posed to Nicola Hughes from Sustainable NI regarding his concerns at works being carried out at the Greencastle mines had been overruled by the Chairperson of the Committee and had therefore not been recorded in the Minutes.
Councillor Reilly stated that the Chairperson’s reasons for overruling this question had been fully explained at the Meeting and did not require any further explanation. He advised that representatives from his Party had been unable to attend the site visit as they were on other Council business.
C327/17 Closure of Ulster Bank Branches (ER227/17)
Alderman Hussey anticipated that Council would write to Ulster Bank Headquarters expressing its concerns at their proposals to close 11 of its branches and a reply would be received in the near future.
C328/17 Deputation – Environment Agency (Ref ER229/17)
Councillor Donnelly referred to a presentation from the Environment Agency at the September Meeting of the Committee following which he had queried if an assessment had been carried out at the cement lagoons at Drumahoe and if there had been any damage following the recent flooding. He stated that Dr Kearney had been unable to comment at that time and queried if an update had yet been received in relation thereto.
The Director of Environment and Regeneration advised that a call had been received from Dr Kearney the previous day and she had indicated that she had been liaising with NI Water regarding the issue and would respond by the end of the week. She undertook to circulate the response to Member on receipt thereof.
Councillor Donnelly expressed concern that a response had not yet been received. He advised that he had been in contact with David Small Chief Executive NIEA regarding the matter and had forwarded related correspondence to him.
C329/17 Mews Lanes Scheme – Triax Proposals (Ref ER241/17)
Councillor Gallagher pointed out that when this report had initially been submitted he had made a number of inquiries to Council’s Legal Department regarding this proposal and had subsequently received feedback. He said he had queried where the proposals fitted in with the wider strategic objectives and the fact that the report had indicated that there was no budget in respect of the proposal. He said these were stipulations which he felt were not within Council’s core position given that the Audit Committee had previously recommended that if there was no budget the proposal could not be considered. He said he would have concerns that this report had been withdrawn to be reworded and it appeared that Triax were writing Council’s reports in order to meet with Council’s legal implications required in the report.
C330/17 Magheramason Play Provision Update (Ref ER237/17)
Newtownstewart Play Provision Update (Ref ER238/17
Alderman Hussey referred to the considerable discussion which had taken place regarding these matters at the November Meeting of the Committee during which there was a strong feeling that the suggested two phase approach could prove successful in terms of moving forward in relation to Magheramason. He felt that this had been the conclusion which had been arrived at by the Committee however he did not feel this was apparent in the Minutes. He anticipated that these could be progressed within the Rates Estimates process and could be reflected in regards to play provision for Magheramason. He reminded Members that these were legacy projects from the former Strabane District Council.
Councillor McGuire pointed out that funding in respect of the Newtownstewart play provision was not yet guaranteed and would have to go through the same process as other projects. He referred however to the need for play provision in this area.
The Chief Executive confirmed that both the Magheramason and Newtownstewart schemes which were legacy projects of the former Strabane District Council had been substantially redesigned and improved and would be brought forward to the respective Capital Working Group and Governance and Strategic Planning Committee for approval in line with the Rates Estimates process.
Alderman Devenney referred to the fact that the Magheramason scheme had been granted planning permission however this did not materialise. Following the amalgamation of the two Councils the Parks Development Manager having examined the original proposals suggested that new proposals be put forward in respect of Magheramason. He stated that he had been in contact with the community group in Magheramason and they had indicated that they would be willing to proceed with a two phased approach and in the meantime carry out a scoping exercise to identify if funding could be made available for the project. He referred to the need for both the Newtownstewart and Magheramason projects to be delivered.
Alderman Devenney proposed that if funding was not forthcoming in respect of the Newtownstewart and Magheramason scheme that Council consider funding these given that both are legacy projects from the former Strabane District Council.
The Mayor suggested that the proposal be deferred until a final decision had been made regarding whether or not funding would be forthcoming in respect of these schemes.
Alderman Devenney stated that his proposal would be based on the realisation that funding would not be forthcoming in respect of the two schemes.
A number of Members sought clarification in relation to Alderman Devenney’s proposal. Alderman Devenney then outlined his proposal as follows
That Council Officers carry out a scoping exercise to determine if funding could be made available in respect of the Newtownstewart and Magheramason schemes however if this was not forthcoming Council would consider funding these schemes.
In response to a query from Alderman Thompson, Alderman Devenney confirmed that his proposal suggested that, if following a scoping exercise, funding could not be identified Council would consider funding the Phase I – the play provision in respect of both schemes. Whilst in respect of the Magheramason scheme Phase II related to the provision of a Muga Pitch he did not consider the provision of a Muga Pitch was contained within the Newtownstewart scheme.
Alderman Warke suggested that he had proposed the two phased approach in respect of the Magheramason scheme as a way forward at the November Meeting of the Committee.
Alderman Hussey referred to the fact that the original report did not contain a formal recommendation. He said he was conscious of potential Rural Development funding which would possibly be determined in early January and well in advance of the Rates Estimates process and as such suggested that Alderman Devenney’s proposal be deferred until January. He referred to the need to be mindful of Council’s finances in moving forward. He stated that he would be addressing these schemes as part of the Rates Estimates process however it may transpire that funding would be made available for one of the projects. He suggested that Council give its commitment that it would endeavour to provide facilities in the coming year.
Councillor Logue, as Chairperson of the Rural Development Group, referred to the need to exercise caution in taking any proposals forward given that there were other towns and villages would be submitting proposals to the Rural Development Group. She stated that whilst it would be ideal if all those applicants could be guaranteed much needed funding it would be negligent to express preference for one particular scheme at this stage.
In response to a query from Alderman Thompson, Councillor Logue said she could not give a precise date on when the decision from the Rural Development Group regarding funding would be forthcoming.
The Chief Executive advised that Council had a Capital Working Group where such projects were discussed and recommendations were made to Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee. He stated that these were two priority projects and Council had invested significantly into advancing these projects. He suggested referring both projects to the Capital Working Group to be considered through the Rates Estimates process and submit a further recommendation to a future Meeting of Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee for further consideration. He stated that the Capital Working Group was helpful in that it provided Members with an opportunity to consider projects in their totality and prioritise accordingly.
Councillor McGuire suggested that both schemes be referred to the Council’s Capital Working Group for consideration with a subsequent recommendation to the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee.
Alderman Devenney withdrew his proposal at this stage.
Alderman Warke reiterated that during discussion on this matter at the November Meeting he had proposed that Council proceed with a Two Phased approach in relation to the Magheramason scheme.