Ulster Unionist representative Roy Beggs MLA has highlighted an apparent short term loss of memory from the former Environment Minister Sammy Wilson MLA during Northern Ireland Assembly Question Time, when he criticised development of energy projects who have gained planning permission following changes to planning policy developed on his watch.
Roy Beggs MLA said “I was astonished to hear Mr Wilson criticise wind energy projects which have gained approval as a result of planning policy which was developed when Mr Wilson was himself the Minister for the Environment.”
Speaking during Environment questions, Mr Wilson stated “The countryside has already been raped by extensive industrial-type wind energy projects. Will the Minister assure us that he will not relax PPS 21 further to allow the kind of open-door policy that is suggested by Sinn Fein which will lead to even further destruction of the countryside?”
At this stage, East Antrim’s Roy Beggs MLA intervened to remind Mr Wilson that he was in fact Minister during the period where PPS 18, the relevant planning policy, was developed that related to renewable energy. Roy Beggs MLA said “I understand that it is PPS 18 that gives more direction on where wind farms are located in the countryside. Does the Minister find it strange that such a question came from someone who developed that policy (Mr Wilson), which was finalised within weeks by his successor Edwin Poots MLA?”
The current Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan seemed to welcome the UUP man’s intervention, by stating “I thank the Member for that question – I thank him very much for it actually [laughter]. No question from Mr Wilson shocks me. As the member rightly identifies, PPS 18 deals with renewable energy. I fully expect PPS 18 to be among the policies most mentioned in the 700 responses to the consultation and for it to be one of the more thumbed sections of the draft strategic planning policy statement.”
Concluding, Roy Beggs MLA added “I find it strange that Mr Wilson seems to think that he can oversee the development of a planning policy (PPS 18) as Environment Minister, and then attack his very policy. He appears to have memory loss or a very selective memory.”