Mallusk residents have voiced their opposition to moves to acquire their land as part of the controversial Hightown waste incinerator project.
arc21, the waste management body for Newtownabbey and 10 other local council areas, is hoping to secure planning permission for a £240m energy from waste plant at Hightown Quarry.
In order to facilitate the development, arc21 is seeking to acquire land for the widening of Boghill Road - the narrow country road which leads from Hydepark Road to the quarry site.
Landowners in the area recently received letters from Land and Property Services advising them that “arc21 is now seeking to enter into negotiations with landowners with the intention of acquiring the necessary land by agreement on a fair market value basis.”
While arc21 insists that it wants to negotiate with landowners to secure their agreement on any land transfers, residents believe the letters are just the first step towards a vesting process.
Displaying their opposition to such a move, several Boghill Road landowners gathered with No-Arc21 anti-incinerator campaigners at the quarry entrance on Tuesday morning. They later discussed their concerns with local political representatives, including South Antrim MP William McCrea, North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness and councillors Paul Michael and Michael Goodman.
During the meeting, opponents of the Hightown energy from waste plan again highlighted fears about the potential impact the facility could have on people’s health, the local environment, traffic levels and property prices in the area. Local farmers also raised concerns about the potential impact on their land, their livestock and livelihoods.
Ian Montgomery, whose family has farmed the area for over five generations, said: “Many Boghill Road residents are extremely upset and worried that they face the prospect of having to sell their land with little or no choice in the matter.
“We utterly oppose the prospect of the vesting of any of our lands, which we rely upon to both live and make a living, and will not allow arc21 to ride roughshod over the interests of local people in order to push through its monstrous incinerator proposal.”
Mr Montgomery, whose 92-year-old father, James, was also at the demonstration, added defiantly: “arc21 will not take our land.”
During the meeting in Mayfield Village Hall, campaigners and politicians reiterated their belief that their is “no need for the Hightown plant”, pointing to what they see as “a viable alternative” in the privately funded Full Circle Power plan for a waste gasification plant at Bombardier in east Belfast - planning permission for which has already been granted.
Responding to the concerns raised by Boghill Road landowners, arc21 has stressed that it has not started vesting procedures in order to secure the land it requires to carry out road improvements in the vicinity of the quarry.
“In all correspondence with the landowners it is made clear that arc21 is seeking to acquire the land by agreement through negotiation.
“Landowners have been provided with contact details and are encouraged to make contact to discuss any relevant issues pertinent to this matter,” a spokesman said.
• Read the full story in this week’s Times (on sale now)