Northern Ireland news

DfI chief had said decision on incinerator had followed 'policy'

Peter May, permanent secretary of the Department for Infrastructure
Brendan Hughes

THE senior civil servant who approved the controversial Arc21 incinerator plans had said he followed "the policy for such matters in the absence of a minister".

Peter May, Department for Infrastructure (DfI) permanent secretary, said he "carefully considered" the decision to grant planning permission without ministerial approval and received legal advice.

Read more: Planning approval for Hightown waste incinerator was 'unlawful', court rules

In a memo last August to Stormont chief planner Fiona McCandless, he wrote: "The recommendation to grant planning permission is one that has been made in line with the policy set out for such matters in the absence of the minister."

Mr May was later asked to provide a copy of the policy, but in response DfI said it "has no policy in place regarding the granting of planning permission in the absence of a minister".

The matter was referred to in the High Court judgment.

In his affirmation Mr May said no such policy exists, and that use of the expression simply referred to "an internal departmental procedural protocol for planning decision making in the absence of a minister".

Colm Bradley, director of planning advice body Community Places – which provided assistance to residents opposing Arc21 – had asked for a copy of the policy last year.

Today he said they were "curious as to what the policy might be, and we were surprised" at the response received.

DfI confirmed there is "no policy in place" and the memo "refers to an internal departmental procedural protocol".

A spokeswoman said the matter was "made clear in Peter May's court affidavit".

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