Northern Ireland news

Edwin Poots queries need for Hightown waste incinerator

An artist's impression of the controversial incinerator at Mallusk

An incinerator which aims to divert tonnes of waste from landfill may not be needed, Stormont's new agriculture and environment minister has said.

A £240 million facility at a former quarry in the Hightown area on the outskirts of Mallusk was proposed several years ago but has been stalled by a series of legal challenges and Stormont's three-year hiatus.

Thousands of objections were lodged with planners over the Arc21 proposal, which was turned down by then environment minister Mark H Durkan in 2015.

The Department for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) later indicated its support for the plan.

Mr Poots yesterday said he was not convinced that Northern Ireland needed an incinerator.

The company behind the Arc21 project has argued that it would divert thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill every year.

Mr Poots said incineration "requires an awful lot of waste and there are better ways of dealing" with it.

"I don't know that Northern Ireland has a requirement for it, I'm not convinced of that at all," he told the BBC.

The proposal is being considered again by the Department for Infrastructure.

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon will ultimately decide if it should be built.

Mr Poots told the programme he was open to an independent environmental protection agency being set up in Northern Ireland but warned it will not be "the answer to all our problems".

He also said his department was "looking extensively" at potential badger culls as part of efforts to prevent bovine TB.

The minister said work to reduce the north's carbon footprint was his number one priority

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