Northern Ireland

Durkan's Planning Bill legal concerns 'illogical' says Larkin

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan
Image caption Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said he had legal and procedural concerns about the bill

Controversial Planning Bill amendments are not in breach of European law, the attorney general has advised the first and deputy first ministers.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan told MLAs on Tuesday he would not move the bill because of legal concerns.

Mr Durkan said a barrister had advised him any attempt to limit someone's right to go to court would break the European Convention on Human Rights.

Attorney General John Larkin argued this was an illogical conclusion.

In a four-page document seen by the BBC, Mr Larkin said "any complaint that can be formulated in terms of convention rights" can be brought in accordance with the amendment which was backed by the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The attorney general also rejected claims the amendments would have broken other European laws such as the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives.

Mr Durkan had told the assembly that the bill "became toxic" after the DUP and Sinn Féin inserted two amendments.

One would give the first and deputy first ministers the power to create special economic planning zones, while the other limited the grounds on which objectors could secure judicial reviews to challenge planning decisions.

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