Brownfield developments 'hindered by lack of cash'


Commercial development of brownfield sites in Northern Ireland is being stymied by inadequate resources to handle contamination assessments, it was claimed recently.

Michael Boyd, director of environmental services at White Young Green Ireland (WYG), said it was essential for adequate funding to be put into the Department of Environment to bring Northern Ireland up to speed with the rest of the UK and free-up development projects.

At the core of the problem is the handling of contamination reports on brownfield sites by the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) and the lack of resources devoted to processing them. Reports can take a year or more to clear planning which, Mr Boyd said, was deterring developers from taking on such projects.

As such, he called for the full implementation of Part III of the Waste and Contaminated Land Order, to assist with the identification and development of Ulster’s brownfield sites.

Brownfield is the term generally used to describe previously developed land, which may or may not be contaminated.

However, despite the UK government’s declared aim that 60 per cent of new development should be on some of the 12,000 such sites across the province, Mr Boyd said the process was log-jammed by the lack of necessary investment.

“The developers are doing the contaminated land assessments - but, because there are inadequate resources within the EHS, they’re not able to turn these reports around quickly enough and it’s causing huge delays in the planning. There’s only two full-time people that actually review these reports and I have 16 consultants here at WYG, alone, writing them.”

Mr Boyd was speaking after addressing the Northern Ireland Environment Forum and he acknowledged that the issue was widely recognised and not of the EHS’s making. Nevertheless, he said the need for action in both financial and environmental terms was compelling.

“The implementation of Part III will ensure that the funding is in place to provide adequate resources within the EHS and environmental health departments - firstly, to assess proactively the extent of contaminated land in Northern Ireland and, secondly, to deal reactively with the high level of planning applications on brownfield sites across the Province.

“The governing legislation has not been enacted and, until it is, the resources will not be funnelled from central government into it.”

Stressing that brownfield sites offered ideal locations for redevelopment in Northern Ireland, he said they played a role in attracting new investment by business and creating employment opportunities.

“Regeneration work of this type is really important in Northern Ireland. It’s essential that we have the proper framework in place to help us develop brownfield sites so that we make best use of previously developed land, while also providing new areas that people can appreciate, use and enjoy for years to come.”