Northern Ireland news

DUP criticised over Arc21 waste incinerator U-turn

An artist's impression of the controversial Hightown incinerator

The DUP has been challenged to "provide clarity" about its position on the controversial Arc21 incinerator after its MPs signed a letter in support of the project, despite elected representatives previously opposing the scheme.

In a letter to infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon, the eight MPs said the waste incinerator near Mallusk in Co Antrim "is a vital strategic project for the successful delivery of Northern Ireland's future waste management strategy and the immense private sector investment (£240 million) in the post-Covid recovery phase period must be welcomed".

However, DUP MLA Pam Cameron appears to have broken ranks by saying she remains opposed to the incinerator.

"I along with South Antrim and North Belfast representatives of every major political party have stood on many platforms and promised our support to the local community for many years. We won't be backing down," she said.

Arc21, the waste management body for six councils across Antrim and Down, said the facility is necessary to cut the significant volumes of household rubbish going to landfill and overseas every year.

However, the incinerator has proved extremely controversial.

The group protesting against the scheme, No-Arc21, said it was bewildered by the DUP's support even though the party's own elected representatives in South Antrim, along with those of Sinn Féin, the UUP, SDLP and Alliance, voiced their opposition to the project.

Chairman Colin Buick claimed the incinerator represents "a huge financial disaster" on the scale of the RHI scandal.

"It is both disappointing and bewildering to find that seven of the DUP MPs who have never otherwise engaged with us or people in our community, have now at the 11th hour inexplicably offered their support to this flawed proposal," he said.

"As for the eighth MP, our own South Antrim Member of Parliament, Mr Paul Girvan, we are simply disgusted at him yet again changing his position on the incinerator – especially having confirmed to us only last month, that he backed our campaign."

Last year, DUP environment minister Edwin Poots suggested that other methods of reducing waste should be exhausted before the incinerator is built.

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said the move by the DUP was an "extraordinary U-turn" and "points to a fundamental question about who actually makes decisions within that party".

"The Ulster Unionist Party is vehemently opposed to the Arc21 scheme," he said.

"The long term impacts that it would have on the environment, recycling, the open-ended costs that would have to be met by the ratepayer, and a non-existent 'business' plan should be enough to raise flags of caution."

The DUP was contacted for comment yesterday.

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