Political and community representatives have expressed their disappointed after planning permission for a waste treatment facility in the region was given the green light.
The Department for Infrastructure announced today that full planning permission had been granted for a Residual Waste Treatment Facility at the Hightown Quarry site in Newtownabbey.
The proposed development on the Boghill Road is designed to deal with waste from a significant portion of the population and includes a Mechanical and Biological Treatment facility, an Energy from Waste Thermal Treatment facility, an Incinerator Bottom Ash Treatment facility, a Refuse Derived Fuel Bale Storage building and an Administration/Visitor Centre.
A number of local residents in the No-ARC21 group had voiced their opposition to the project since it was first proposed.
Commenting on Facebook today, No-ARC21 chairman Colin Buick said: “Disgraceful decision which will be taken through the courts, at great expense to public purse.”
A spokesperson for the Stop Hightown Waste Incinerator Facebook page stated: “Devastating news that the incinerator has been given approval to go ahead. Residents have been ignored, politicians have been ignored, experts have been ignored, statistics have been ignored and economics have been ignored. Keep an eye on social media. The fight will continue.”
South Antrim DUP MLA, Pam Cameron has expressed her anger at the Department of Infrastructure’s decision to grant planning permission to the controversial Hightown Incinerator site.
She said: “This news is a devastating blow to the greater Mallusk community and the thousands of people who lodged formal objections to the plans, not to mention the NOARC21 group who have worked tirelessly over the years to build awareness and highlight the issues surrounding the application.
“Whilst the need to reduce landfill waste is of paramount importance, I find it impossible to comprehend that the focus has been placed on developing a plant to incinerate that waste rather than encouraging further recycling, reusing and repurposing initiatives.”
Mrs Cameron added: “The area around the proposed site is intensely populated, indeed, in recent years several large developments have been built. The existing road infrastructure is grossly inadequate to support the traffic that this increased development has brought and is far from suitable to handle the volume of heavy vehicular traffic that a waste disposal facility at Hightown will bring.
“ARC21 have stated that they plan to upgrade the Boghill and Hydepark Roads, however, the proposed upgrades will barely be enough to bring the road infrastructure up to the standard required to deal with current traffic levels let alone the vast increase in heavy vehicles which will be using the road network in the vicinity.”
Commenting on the decision, Alliance representative, Cllr John Blair said: “I have already been contacted by constituents on this very disappointing outcome and although I am currently on holiday in Spain, I have also heard from David Ford MLA.
“Those who have worked very professionally and very hard to oppose this most detrimental proposal can be assured of my continued support.”
South Antrim Alliance MLA David Ford said: “Alliance has said from the start that while the technology may be acceptable, the location is unacceptable, given the concerns expressed by local people and public representatives.
“The location, in a rural site but requiring heavy lorries to travel through suburban housing with an already inadequate road structure, is totally unsuitable, making this decision frustrating and disappointing for all those who worked hard to stop the plans getting the final go-ahead.
“An industrial area, where use could be made of the heat generated as well as the electricity, would have been much more suitable and I would question how the Boghill site will be able to sustain such a venture.
“By securing energy from waste, this incinerator may well have some environmental benefits overall, but this should never come at the expense of the safety of residents and other road users in the Mallusk area.”
Ulster Unionist MLA for South Antrim, Steve Aiken OBE, has lambasted the timing of the decision to grant planning permission to build a £240m waste plant at Mallusk.
Steve Aiken said: “This decision was for an elected politician to take, not an unelected, unaccountable civil servant. It is outrageous that such a decision has been made at this time.
“Why was this regionally significant decision made now, rather than wait for either a devolved or Direct Rule Minister to take the decision?
“This is just a further consequence of some parties in Northern Ireland abdicating their democratic responsibility to provide devolved government and to take what are the important and difficult decisions.
“The Arc21 incinerator remains a fundamentally flawed proposal. The case for the facility at Mallusk has never been proven.
“This decision will end up costing jobs and costing ratepayers’ enormous sums of money. After the Renewable Heat Incentive, this may well prove one of Northern Ireland’s costliest mistakes.”
Glengormley UUP representative, Ald Mark Cosgrove said: “I attended and gave evidence to the Planning Appeals Commission and saw that the information gathering process was flawed.
“Our opposition to this project has consistently been on economic grounds. The public sector should not be providing what the private sector can and is producing for much less cost and disruption.
“If this decision proceeds, this will create significant overcapacity and, over the course of the proposed 30 year contract, waste hundreds of millions of pounds of public money.”
Branding the decision “madness”, UUP and Airport DEA representative, Cllr Paul Michael said: “This decision is total madness. The residents of the area fought hard to stop this project going ahead as they are the people who will be directly affected by this facility with the increase in traffic and environmental issues it will bring.
“The Department has not taken into account issues raised by myself and local residents at many meetings we had with them and unfortunately today’s decision is further evidence that the public concerns have not been listened to and have been ignored.”
Glengormley SDLP representative, Cllr Noreen McClelland said: “I am shocked that the Department of Infrastructure has, in the absence of political and Ministerial authorisation, decided to grant full planning permission to one of the most controversial waste treatment projects.
“Every political party is on record as opposing the ARC21 incinerator. It clearly poses a significant threat to the wellbeing of established communities in this area. To place an incinerator plant so close to several large residential developments, schools and an area of high scenic value like the Belfast Hills is a disaster.
“An SDLP Minister decided against granting planning for this plant. It is a gross overstep for the Department to grant full planning permission while the devolved institutions are down. I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Permanent Secretary where the Department must be held fully accountable.”
North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said: “The decision to grant planning permission for an incinerator at Hightown in Glengormley is a disgrace and could have serious environmental, health and safety implications for the area.
“Residents and all the elected representatives in the area were united in their opposition to the Hightown incinerator. This is a reversal of a previous planning decision against an incinerator in the area.
“In this specific case waste will come from all eleven council areas. This will entail hundreds of lorries travelling through the area on a daily basis with the resulting pollution. The incinerator may also be used to import waste from areas further afield.”
He added: “The granting of this application is the wrong decision and is one which will be opposed by Sinn Féin and all the residents in the area. Glengormley is a good place to live with many young families joining a growing population making it their home.
“This is the Belfast basin and therefore dispersal of fumes particularly in high pressure weather conditions is poor and will do damage to people’s health. Sinn Féin believe the way to deal with waste is reuse, reduce and recycle.”
Glengormley Sinn Féin representative, Cllr Michael Goodman stated: “The decision by DfI to grant planning permission for the Hightown Incinerator is absolutely disgraceful and will continue to be opposed by myself and Sinn Féin comrades in every institution possible.
“It is unwanted, unneeded and unsafe and could have a serious negative impact on growing communities in Glengormley and Mallusk.”