Northern Ireland news

Elected representatives and residents express anger at incinerator decision at public meeting

Sharing a platform at the public meeting were (left to right): Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin MLA; Nichola Mallon, SDLP MLA; Colin Buick, chairman, No Arc 21; Charlie Thompson, No Arc 21; Steve Aiken, UUP MLA; John Blair, Alliance councillor; and Paul Girvan, DUP South Antrim MP. Picture by Declan Roughan
John Monaghan

ELECTED representatives from all parties have offered their support to residents fighting proposals to develop a controversial waste incinerator facility in Co Antrim.

Around 250 people attended a public meeting at the Academy Sport and Community Centre in Mallusk last night to discuss the massive Arc21 scheme at nearby Hightown Quarry.

Elected representatives from the five main parties, including the DUP South Antrim MP Paul Girvan, shared a platform along with the NoArc21 group.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) announced earlier this month that planning permission had been granted.

The decision was made in the absence of a minister and was strongly criticised by a residents' group and representatives from all the main Stormont parties.

More than 4,000 objection letters had been submitted to the department.

An application for planning permission was turned down in 2015 by the SDLP's then environment minister Mark H Durkan, leading arc21 to lodge an appeal with the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC), which approved it, stating it was "in the public interest".

Charlie Thompson, from No Arc21, told those present that it was "simply the wrong site for this type of incinerator".

He said: "Just because something complies with existing standards doesn't mean that it is safe. I found the PAC report absolutely laughable.

"We don't have money for education and health but we are paying £240 million for a facility which is not required."

Citing several examples of incidents with incinerators across the globe, Mr Thompson said residents "have the power to stop this" and added that a judicial review was being considered.

"Three people have approached me tonight saying that they want to sell their house as a result of these plans. Don't let civil servants take this decision."

Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said: "As far as I am concerned elected representatives are in charge. Our councillors on Arc21 have opposed this at all stages."

SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon said that civil servants had "pushed this decision through the door" while the political system was suspended and said that SDLP councillors "need to withdraw" from the Arc21 committee.

UUP South Antrim MLA Steve Aiken said: "The more I found out about this the more I became concerned. There is no legal obligation for councillors to be on the Arc21 committee."

The incinerator is set to handle black bin rubbish from six council areas and arc21 has claimed the plans will significantly reduce waste going to landfill, increase recycling rates and boost the economy.

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