In 2009 we succeeded in persuading a majority of Councillors in Down Council that ignoring its legal duties on bio-diversity for the past 15 years was not acceptable. The Chairperson requested Lecale Conservation write to the CEO of Council explaining the case and arranged for a meeting with the then CEO John McGrillan. After this, a bio-diversity officer was hired in Council – initially on a 50:50 basis with Newry and Mourne Council. Here is the text of the letter.

Re: Submission to Down District Council requested by Council Chairperson for CEO

To: John McGrillan CEO Down Council

Dear Mr McGrillan,

DDC chairperson attended the Lecale conservation Groups meeting of the 10th
February last and requested us to make a submission about what local conservationists and
environmentalists see as the shortcomings in the DDC area, and moving forward in the
broader Newry City and Down District council moving forward.

First and foremost we are concerned that the council seems unaware of it responsibilities
under “Local Area 21” arising from the Rio Earth Summit, under which the EU and all member
countries have an obligation to develop local, measurable action plans right down to local
government level.

Many councils in the UK are already playing a leading role in this regard and councils like
Kirklees in Huddersfield are regarded as world leaders in this regard Likewise councils like
Fingal in the Republic, or Merton in the UK are leading the way by setting aggressive goals
ahead of National Government targets in regard to energy consumption or local building standards.

We append a summary of the Agenda 21 priorities in Arun County Council in
The main issues to be addressed under Local Area 21 are;

1. Biodiversity, the need for an action plan at council level, a biodiversity officer and
involving the community in enhancing and protecting the remaining biodiversity in the area

2. Climate change, a climate Change action plan for the councils own property, for the
area covered by the council and how the council can influence the pattern of energy
consumption in its area. Heat, power and transport.

3. Sustainable Development, basically how we can conserve our natural and built
vernacular environment while maintaining and improve living standards in a manner that will
leave our grandchildren the same or a better legacy that that which we inherited ourselves.
Covering areas like;

a. Planning
b. Leisure
c. Tourism
d. Parks and Greenspace
e. Sustainable Business Practice
f. Environmental Health
g. Crime and Disorder

The main concern of our group concerns items 1 and 3 above – namely Biodiversity and
Conservation. We attach for your information the Biodiversity Plan for Belfast City Council, and
the job description of the biodiversity officer.

We also note that the new council will have extensive powers to set policy in the built
environment and in long-term planning for development and thus should no be planning to use
these powers to reflect its responsibilities under Local Agenda 21.

The main questions that arose at our meeting with your chairperson on the 10th was
undoubtedly related to threats to biodiversity in the DDC and especially in Lecale and its need
for protection within the context of well thought out action plan and one or more biodiversity
officers working in a new department, maybe reporting to an overall Sustainable Development
Committee that had responsibility for Agenda 21 overall.

This new department would need the authority to deal with issues such as degradation of after
quality, air quality, sewage discharges to land and sea, impact of planning projects on habitats
and green spaces both private and public.

The biodiversity officer should be in at the beginning of discussions on any projects that are
likely to impact on our natural or built environment.

It is felt by this group that sustainable development can only be achieved with these conditions
in place, and should fall under the aegis of local agenda 21. This would allow this council, or
the new council likely to be formed in 2011, to meet its obligation therein.

We feel that given the delay in DDC in implementing its obligations over the 15 years, it is
imperative that these issues are treated with great urgency at this time.

Subsequently, a Biodiversity Officer was employed.