Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 12:41 UK

'Green' watchdog for NI ruled out

A decision on a 'green' watchdog will be announced later
Northern Ireland will not have an independent 'green watchdog'

Northern Ireland will not have an independent 'green' watchdog, Minister Arlene Foster has said.

Instead, the Environmental Heritage Service (EHS) will be rebranded, she told the Assembly on Tuesday.

It will be reorganised and will be launched in July with the mission of protecting the built heritage and natural environment, she said.

Environmental campaigners, Friends of the Earth, warned they might go to the European Commission over the decision.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland that does not have an independent body.

"If Northern Ireland isn't prepared to take its own environment seriously, there is one body that will, that is the European Commission. They will enforce to the letter of the European law," John Woods, director of Friends of the Earth, said.

"Far better we regulate ourselves, do it our way, in our own time and do it properly."

The minister announced a package of measures she hopes will modernise and strengthen environmental regulation and hit the worst offenders where it hurts the most.

"EHS investigators are better equipped than ever before to tackle serious environmental crime," she said.

"Assets recovery is now the name of the game. Last year confiscation orders were used to recover earnings from illegal waste totalling over 833,000."

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