Northern Ireland news

Council-backed consortium behind Hightown incinerator to challenge Nichola Mallon's planning permission refusal

The proposed incinerator at Hightown

FORMER Stormont minister Nichola Mallon's decision to refuse planning permission for an incinerator on the outskirts of north Belfast is set to be challenged in the courts.

The waste management group that represents six councils and the company that hopes to build the £240m facility at the Hightown quarry have signalled their plans to challenge March's decision.

Ms Mallon refused approval for the scheme on the basis that it could discourage recycling. She also highlighted how there had been 5,000 objections submitted against the application.

Her SDLP colleague Mark H Durkan previously refused planning permission for the incinerator in 2015 but his decision was subsequently overturned by the courts.

In 2017, with no minister in place, senior Department of Infrastructure civil servants granted planning approval only for that decision to be quashed.

Councils' body arc21 and Indaver, who together represent the Becon Consortium, yesterday confirmed that they had informed the department of their plans to challenge Ms Mallon's decision.

They say the former minister's decision was contrary to the advice of her officials.

"The minister's most senior advisors in the department alerted her to the very real risks of legal challenge, highlighting that such a challenge might be exceptionally difficult for the department to defend, as well as raising the associated costs and reputational risks of doing so," said Jackie Keaney of the Becon Consortium.

"The minister chose to ignore this advice issuing her decision on the final day before the pre-election purdah period."

Colin Buick of No-Arc21, which opposes the development, said his group was "shocked and disgusted" by the legal challenge.

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