Green Party NI representative, Cllr Rachel Woods, has expressed thanks to members supporting changes to the proposed North Down Coastal Path Working Group at Community and Wellbeing Committee on Wednesday (13th September) night.
The Holywood and Clandeboye representative said, 'Members were issued with a report and recommendation to establish a working group for the North Down Coastal Path after the proposals for a Greenway were scrapped and removed from the planning process. It had been recommended to use a method of proportional representation called d'Hondt, which would mean there would be 10 elected members from the three big parties, and one from the small party groups and independents. I do not believe that this is the most appropriate means of selecting members for a working group on this matter, nor for getting the best possible group of people together.
My amendment sought to alter the terms of reference and also put more representation for small party and independents (and those who want to be on it), whilst including community group representatives, and those with expertise related to a topic or discussion at hand.
In my opinion, the fundamental issue is that d’Hondt does not make for good representation on groups. It makes for easy ones. Proportional representation means nothing when it comes to the coastal path. Interest, value and expertise do. Representatives from the area, those that use it, knowledge, want. That matters.
We should model a group on who wants and can be involved, surely that makes for a better group, even if it means a larger number of people around the table at one time.
Community and environmental group representatives need to be present - they are key players in guiding direction and offering expertise, ideas and alternatives.Other aspects of the amendment are clear - adding in a few other objectives - consideration of usage of the path as well as identification of funding opportunities. We know how crucial this will be to make any meaningful change. I am glad that this passed committee with no objection and look forward to its establishment in the coming weeks. This is one of the best assests in our Borough. We need to preserve and protect it.'
For information, the amendment to the proposal was passed as follows:
‘It is recommended that Council agrees to set up a North Down Coastal Path Working Group; appoints elected members to the North Down Coastal Path Working Group via nominations through their political parties, or expression of interest as an independent member in the relative geographical representation; invites interested groups, and those with specific expertise to be represented on the Working Group; agrees to publish agendas and minutes of Working Group publicly; that final decision making on projects rests with Council; agrees to add in consideration of ‘usage’ of the path to the objectives and seeking out funding opportunities as outlined in the Terms of Reference, and, that the first meeting of the North Down Coastal Path Working Group is held within one month of agreement.’