Hightown incinerator plan: Department denies approval recommendation

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.

The Department of the Environment has denied that officials have recommended planning approval for the Hightown waste incinerator.

One source with close links to the arc21 plan claimed this week that department officials have presented the Environment Minister with a report recommending approval of the £240million energy from waste plant development at Boghill Road, near Mallusk. However, the DOE has denied the claim, saying that while the planning process is nearing a conclusion, the complex application is still being considered.

“Consideration of this application is still ongoing. No recommendation has been made to the Minister,” a DOE spokesman told the Times.

“The application was accompanied by an environmental statement (ES) and further environmental information also had to be submitted in addition to the ES. The application raises a range of complex issues that require detailed consideration by the department and the other statutory bodies who input into the planning process.”

He added: “Whilst the application process is nearing a conclusion, given the implications this development could have for the immediate area and Northern Ireland, the Minister will ensure that all matters have been fully considered before making what he considers to be the right decision.”

The department confirmed that it has received more than 3,400 objections to the controversial application, which was submitted by regional waste management body arc21 in March 2014.

While the organisation says the new infrastructure would enable its constituent councils to meet European landfill diversion targets and manage their black bin waste more sustainably, opponents of the project, led by the No-Arc21 campaign group, argue that it is “not safe and not sustainable” and have called on the Minister to turn down the application.

They claim a proposed waste gasification plant in east Belfast offers an alternative to the Boghill Road project - something arc21 denies.

If approved, the plan will see the Becon Consortium deliver a mechanical biological treatment facility alongside an energy from waste plant at Hightown Quarry.

With a decision on the arc21 application having been expected earlier this year, several local politicians have made calls for Minister Mark H. Durkan to make his announcement and end the ongoing uncertainty over the plan.