‘arc21 has no authority to appeal incinerator plan refusal’

A computer-generated image of the proposed energy from waste plant development at Hightown Quarry.
A computer-generated image of the proposed energy from waste plant development at Hightown Quarry.
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Regional waste management body arc21 has “no authority” to appeal a ministerial decision refusing planning permission for its controversial incinerator project in Mallusk.

That is the view of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council - one of arc21’s six constituent local authorities.

The council has this week written to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan questioning the validity of the move to appeal his decision opposing the proposed £240m energy from waste plant development at Hightown Quarry.

In September this year, the Minister turned down the incinerator plan, despite an approval recommendation from planners. He claimed there was “no need” for the proposal and warned that the project “could discourage recycling”.

Members of arc21’s joint committee - elected representatives from member councils - subsequently agreed to submit a notice of appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC).

Given the considerable political and public opposition to the plan, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council has now written to Mr Durkan stating that it has not been consulted about an appeal and has not approved such a course of action.

The letter, dated December 1 and signed by chief executive Jacqui Dixon, says: “The council is of the view that whilst arc21 has submitted correspondence to the department requesting a hearing, arc21 has no authority to proceed with the appeal or appear at the PAC unless it has the approval of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

“The purpose of this correspondence is to advise you that there should be no working assumption by your officials that any appeal will proceed until such times that Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has consented to this course of action.

“I will write to you again when the council has had the opportunity to properly consider its position on this matter.”

Campaign group NoArc21, which represents local residents opposed to the Hightown plan, has welcomed the council’s position and questioned the level of support for an appeal among the other constituent local authorities.

Asked to comment on Antrim and Newtownabbey Council’s letter, a spokesperson for arc21 said: “The request to the Department of the Environment to refer the planning notification to the Planning Appeals Commission was made in accordance with arc21’s decision-making framework.

“arc21 will ensure that in regard to its proposals for new waste infrastructure, the appropriate democratic decision-making process will continue to be followed.”

• Read related story - Durkan explains Hightown incinerator rejection