New report casts doubt on need for £240m Co Antrim incinerator facility

An artist's impression of the proposed facilities at the Hightown Quarry near Glengormley. Picture by Declan Roughan
Gareth McKeown

A REPORT into a planned £240 million incinerator in Co Antrim has concluded there is not enough waste to feed it.

Campaigners against the approved arc21 facility at Hightown Quarry in Mallusk, on the outskirts of north Belfast, recently commissioned a professional report, compiled by specialist independent waste consultants Eunomia Research & Consulting. It states that the scale of the incinerator is in excess of what is required and will result in overcapacity.

Colin Buick, chairperson of NoArc21, said the findings confirm the group's belief that there is no requirement for the incinerator at Hightown Quarry.

"This analysis, carried out by widely respected waste experts, clearly outlines that existing capacity as well as the construction of the Full Circle Generation facility at Airport Road West will meet the vast majority of the waste requirements of the arc21 region.’’

"Furthermore, it remains highly concerning to us that this facility appears to have made little to no progress in securing a grid connection meaning that the incinerator will contribute nothing to security of electricity supply as has been claimed. We do not want to see this project turn into another botched energy scheme like RHI," he added.

Political representatives welcomed the report, which they say raises serious questions about the need for the incinerator.

Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney said:

"While many of us have questioned the need for the arc21 facility for some time, this report provides a clear evidential basis for that view and concludes that the region will require significantly less residual waste treatment than has been claimed by arc21.’’

UUP South Antrim MLA, Steve Aiken added:

"This independent analysis strikes at the heart of the case presented by arc21 that the incinerator is an essential piece of infrastructure to treat residual waste in Northern Ireland. The reality is that it will result in the unnecessary squandering of public money and severely limit recycling ambitions.’’

The publicly-funded arc21 incinerator is set to handle black bin rubbish from six council areas and it has been claimed by proponents that it will significantly reduce waste going to landfill, increase recycling rates and boost the economy.

A spokesperson for arc21 said:

“Arc21’s proposals to develop modern waste infrastructure will bring Northern Ireland into line with European best practice.  The project has been one of the most scrutinised infrastructure proposals in Northern Ireland’s history, aligned with local and central Government  policy and statutory requirements, and assessed by professional planners in the planning authority (Department for Infrastructure) and the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC)."

“Following a hearing held in public, the PAC considered the evidence regarding all the issues including the issue of waste volumes to support arc21’s plans.  It concluded that not only were the proposed facilities required, but that they would also provide economic and environmental benefits such as construction jobs, skilled jobs in operations and improved recycling.”

The multi-million pound project was granted planning permission by the Department for Infrastructure last year, but has met widespread opposition, with 4,000 letters of objection received. Campaigners are currently challenging the department's decision to give the go-ahead for the project.

Arc21 is a waste management group representing six councils in the east of Northern Ireland.



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