Friday, 30 May 2008

DUP moves to firm up farming vote?

Arlene Foster, the DUP Environment Minister, announced this week that she will not create an independent Environmental Protection Agency. This means that Northern Ireland is the only part of ‘these islands’ without such a watchdog.

A range of environment groups and the other three parties in the Executive all supported the idea of an independent body. Some believe that Mrs Foster has acted in this manner in order to pacify the farming lobby who felt they might suffer at the hands of such an agency.

The move is undoubtedly popular with the farming unions and the vast bulk of farmers. However, when she announces very soon that the controversial rural planning policy PPS 14 is to remain in tact a small but significant number of farmers and other rural voters will certainly be displeased.

It was notably that Patsy McGlone, the SDLP Chairperson of the Assembly’s Environment Committee (who is very much against PPS 14) issued a statement last week on the ‘replacement’ of the Planning Policy Statement this week – obviously keen to get his retaliation in first.

Perhaps a case of you win some, you lose some for the DUP?

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