Wilson’s planning reform proposals must be grounded in Equality – Conor Murphy
Sinn Féin’s DRD minister Conor Murphy has declared that draft consultation proposals on planning reform by DOE minister Sammy Wilson must be grounded in equality.
Mr Murphy said:
“Sinn Féin has significant concerns about Sammy Wilson’s refusal to properly ‘equality-proof’ the draft consultation proposals on planning reform.
“The promotion of equality is not an optional extra, particularly with a fundamental agenda like the reform and overhaul of the planning system. Equality is not an add-on accessory or an expedient tick-box exercise.
“Sinn Féin has engaged with Sammy Wilson and his officials over these issues.
“Sammy Wilson is fully aware of the steps required to ensure that his draft consultation proposals on planning reform comply with minimal best practice in policy development. Thus far, he has refused to act.
“The irony is that Sammy Wilson responded positively when Sinn Féin raised equally valid concerns about the inadequacy of rural-proofing within the draft consultation proposals.
“Sammy Wilson’s continued refusal to promote equality policy within the detail of the draft proposals and to properly adhere to equality statute throughout the planning reform process could create unnecessary pressures on wider RPA reforms.
“The onus to comply with equality statute and public policy rests squarely with Sammy Wilson. Planning reform has huge potential to deliver on the Executive’s equality agenda, but this must be reflected in concrete terms.
“Sinn Féin also has some technical concerns about the draft consultation proposals which we’ve been prepared to work on constructively with Sammy Wilson.
“In this context, over the last two months, Sinn Féin has offered to hold continuous meetings – if need be on a daily basis - to ensure all the relevant issues are satisfactorily resolved.
“Unfortunately, no such urgency has been demonstrated by Sammy Wilson and his advisors, who seem more concerned with misdirecting the media rather than resolving fundamental issues.”
The joint First Ministers recently reaffirmed the baseline that all Executive functions must be discharged having due regard for the need to promote equality of opportunity, in line with the general statutory duty under Section 75(1) of the NI Act 1998 and the detailed enforcement duties in Schedule 9 to the Act (see AQW 1675/09).
The DOE’s failure to mainstream the Section 75(1) statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity throughout the draft consultation proposals on planning reform (including the principles of New TSN), alongside the deliberate exclusion of a full Equality Impact Assessment (compliant with the Schedule 9 enforcement duties) prior to the publication of any proposals, means they do not even reach the minimal baseline recently reaffirmed by the joint First Ministers.