The Community Relations Council met with Department of Environment Minister Alex Attwood MLA this week (4 October) as part of CRC’s round of briefings with Government Departments on community relations issues. The CRC group included CEO Duncan Morrow and Policy Officer Kelan McClelland. They were met by the Minister together with the DoE Head of Policy Planning.
The three key issues raised by CRC were the Review of Public Administration, Planning of Shared Space, and the issue of the flying of flags.
Review of Public Administration:
CRC noted that the transfer of specific powers to local government under RPA offered an opportunity for District Councils to apply a Good Relations focus to the development of new and existing policies. In particular CRC urged the Department to encourage District Councils to address ongoing issues of inter and intra community division.
Planning in Contested Spaces:
CRC noted that planners needed to become more engaged in their work in helping to create shared space and avoiding the creation or escalation of contested space. The Minister offered to invite CRC to attend a series of discussion meetings with DoE officials and other stakeholders on this issue.
CRC brought to the Minister’s attention a wealth of research available to assist planning services, including CRC’s ‘Beyond Belfast- Contested Spaces in Urban, Rural and Cross Border Settings’.
CRC also suggested that District Councils should be required to assess planning applications using equality of access criteria.
Flying of Flags:
CRC noted that the flying of flags is one element of cultural expression but that more could be done to resolve or defuse the issues surrounding this. CRC suggested that District Councils could be required to implement a corporate identity with flags and emblems based on a localised Council design or geographical identity rather than on flags with links to constitutional or national identity (Union Jack and Tricolour).