Hightown EfW plant a vital part of Northern Ireland’s waste management solution, says Becon

A computer-generated image of the proposed EfW plant development at Hightown Quarry.
A computer-generated image of the proposed EfW plant development at Hightown Quarry.

A £240 million integrated waste management plant proposed for the Mallusk area is more necessary than ever, its backers have claimed.

Plans for the arc21 waste incinerator at the former Hightown Quarry have been met with widespread opposition from members of the public and local political representatives. And in September last year, the Environment Minister refused planning permission for the development - a decision that is now being appealed.

The Becon Consortium - the group of private companies behind the controversial project - claims its case for having the planning refusal overturned has been boosted by an acknowledgment from the Department of the Environment that EU law has signalled a “significant shift in the future direction of travel for waste management” and will have a “major impact” on waste management infrastructure requirements.

According to Becon, a new assessment that Northern Ireland needs 2-3 times more thermal waste treatment (energy from waste) capacity than was previously assessed, confirms the need for the Hightown project as part of Northern Ireland’s overall waste management solution, alongside increasing recycling and reducing landfill.

Following approval for an increase in processing capacity at an energy from waste (EfW) plant under development at Bombardier in east Belfast, John Ahern of the Becon Consortium said: “Planning approval for the increased waste throughput for the Bombardier Energy from Waste facility is welcome evidence that the Department recognises the need for increased thermal treatment capacity in Northern Ireland. The clarity provided by the DOE Environmental Policy Division that new European proposals will also dramatically increase the need for additional energy from waste capacity here is also very welcome. The European proposals also set more ambitious targets for recycling and it is important to remember that a significant proportion of the footprint of the Becon project includes recycling infrastructure which could increase arc21’s constituent councils’ overall recycling rates by up to 10 per cent.

“Together these developments now paint a very clear picture of the need for Northern Ireland to catch up with the rest of Europe and to put in place the necessary infrastructure to both manage our waste more sustainably and maximise its value through material and energy recovery.

“We believe the £240m Becon project, designed to deal with municipal black bin waste from the arc21 council area, is a vital part of the solution to meet that growing need. It will provide the type of proven and reliable infrastructure that Northern Ireland needs to manage its waste and at the same time help it meet its European obligations.”

There have been around 4,000 objections to the arc21/Becon plan for Hightown Quarry, with opponents of the project branding it “not safe, not sustainable and not needed.”

The arguments for and against the project are due to be heard by the Planning Appeals Commission this October.

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