Environment Minister criticised for “slow” decision-making

(Title Image: Daily Post)

This afternoon saw another edition of environment & rural affairs questions. Here’s a summary.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) asked what was happening to a consultation on post-Brexit environmental arrangements? It was first promised last summer, then in the autumn – we’re still waiting. The lack of progress was “scandalous”.

“It seems to be tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Maybe we should call you the ‘Mañana Minister’, because where’s the finishing line? Well, I’ll tell you where it is, it’s in 37 days time when we leave the EU, and without these arrangements in place, our environment will be exposed to all kinds of threats and our citizens will have their rights in that respect diminished.”
– Llyr Gruffydd AM

The Minister rejected that it was scandalous; a consultation was expected to be launched in March. A lot of work was taking place behind the scenes and the Minister was taking the threat of a “No Deal Brexit” very seriously. Discussions with the UK Government were ongoing and draft proposals from their end are due by the end of 2019.

No decision yet for Barry biomass environmental assessment

Shadow Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), bemoaned delays in a decision from the Welsh Government as to whether biomass plant developers in Barry need to undertake an environmental impact assessment. It’s been more than a year since the first request, what’s happening?

The Minister said the decision would be taken by Deputy Minister for Housing & Local Government, Hannah Blythyn (Lab, Delyn).

“You must agree, Minister, that it’s completely unacceptable, 12 months on from when it was first announced, that the Government was minded to instruct the developer to undertake an environmental impact assessment. We’re 4 months on from when the then First Minister sent a letter indicating that a decision would be taken by the end of November last year. how much longer do we have to wait?”
– Shadow Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Andrew RT Davies AM

Andrew Davies then turned to Llyr’s point about delays in Brexit preparations, insinuating that simple decisions were taking too long.

The Minister robustly defended her department:

“….you ask me what confidence I have in my department. I’ve got a great deal of confidence in my department. But I have to say, Brexit, which so many members of your group supported, has added a level of work that you cannot begin to imagine. I’ve had 45 new officials. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs alone has had 1,300 new officials….just to help with Brexit.”
– Energy, Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham)

Bottles for bus rides?

Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) asked about the impact of environmentally-friendly travel on pollution, and brought up an interesting experiment from Indonesia:

“In Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, decision-makers have come up with a different way to encourage residents to recycle waste, giving free bus rides in exchange for used plastic bottles. Under a scheme launched in April, communities can ride red city buses by dropping off plastic bottles at terminals or directly paying for a fare with bottles. Llywydd, a two-hour bus ticket costs 10 plastic cups, or up to five plastic bottles, depending on their size. The city hopes it will meet their ambitious target of becoming plastic-free by 2020.”
– Jack Sargeant AM

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) asked if additional resources could be put towards bus upgrades – buses often being upgraded less often than lorries – while Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) asked what effect temporary 50mph limits were having on pollution – echoing a recent question on that.

The Minister said the bottle idea (and more funding for bus upgrades) was worthy of further discussion with the Economy Minister, but a straightforward deposit-return scheme was more likely. On 50mph limits, the Minister said the public needed to be better informed as to whether the temporary limits are to deal with air pollution or traffic congestion. A Clean Air Act is another possibility.

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