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N Ireland ‘tests the water’ over independent environment agency

Northern Ireland environment minister Alex Attwood is “testing the water” over proposals for an independent environment agency in Northern Ireland.

The minister has launched a discussion document, which sets out a number of ideas for reforming the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) from its current role as an agency within the Northern Ireland Department of Environment to an independent body.

Proposals include transferring all the functions of the NIEA to an agency independent of the Government, created as a quango, maintaining the NIEA in its current form, creating a new quango with a transfer of related responsibilities from other departments.

Attwood said: “This is not a formal consultation. What I want to do is to ‘test the water’ to establish what appetite there may be for complete structural reform leading to a truly independent agency - with the necessary powers to manage our environment.

“In the three years since the idea of an independent agency was raised, the NIEA has established a fine reputation for sensitive management of the environment. However the time is now right to revisit this issue, and I am calling on key interests to let me have their views on options for a new independent environment agency set out in the document I am issuing today.”

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