DAERA investigated by environment watchdog


Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is under investigation for potential breaches of environmental legislation.

The possible issues concern Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated for at-risk bird species including Whooper Swan, Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Puffin.

The investigation, led by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), follows previous inquiries into DAERA's handling of environmental matters, including failures related to ammonia guidance in planning and the delayed publication of its first Environmental Improvement Plan.

DAERA may have failed to comply with environmental laws (Clive Finlayson).


Failure to comply

DAERA's compliance with recommendations from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) regarding the protection and maintenance of wild bird populations within SPAs is being scrutinised. These areas in question, such as Rathlin Island, the Antrim Hills, Strangford Lough, and Lough Beg and Lough Neagh, are vital for breeding, wintering, and migratory birds. 

The JNCC conducts reviews of SPAs and advises on their establishment or modification to safeguard bird populations. The investigation is part of coordinated efforts across Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland, with additional actions underway in Wales. 

If the investigation does find violations of environmental laws, the OEP may choose to initiate legal proceedings against public departments and authorities, including DAERA.