Hightown incinerator: Objectors vow to keep up fight as arc21 challenges planning 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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Campaigners opposing a controversial plan to build a £240m waste incinerator near Mallusk have vowed to continue their fight as arc21 challenges the decision to refuse planning permission for the project.

The NoArc21 group said it will continue its campaign against the proposed energy from waste plant development at Hightown Quarry until the plan is scrapped.

NoArc21 campaigners make their point at Mossley Mill ahead of Tuesday night's special meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

NoArc21 campaigners make their point at Mossley Mill ahead of Tuesday night's special meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

Regional waste management body arc21 says the new infrastructure would enable its constituent councils to meet European landfill diversion targets and manage their black bin waste more sustainably. However, opponents of the scheme claim it wouldn’t be safe or sustainable.

Last month, Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan denied planning permission for the project. The SDLP representative went against the approval recommendation of planning officials, arguing that the incinerator could have “discouraged recycling” and that there was no need for the proposal.

Members of the arc21 joint committee met last Friday and agreed to submit a notice of appeal in a bid to have the Minister’s decision overturned.

“arc21 can confirm that it has requested the Department of the Environment to refer the recent planning notification regarding new waste infrastructure at Hightown Quarry to the Northern Ireland Planning Appeals Commission,” a spokesperson for arc21 confirmed.

It’s understood the organisation will now seek support from its six constituent councils - Antrim and Newtownabbey, Belfast, Ards and North Down, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Mid and East Antrim, and Newry, Mourne and Down - for the appeal.

While NoArc21 members - whose campaign has been supported by more than 3,500 objectors - were delighted with the Minister’s ruling, they know their battle is far from over.

“We are disappointed that arc21 have chosen to appeal the ministerial decision. We would obviously prefer it if they didn’t appeal the decision, something we feel would be a further waste of ratepayers’ and taxpayers’ money, but it looks like they are going to submit an appeal and are now looking to the councils for support,” said NoArc21 spokesman Colin Buick.

Members of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council met at Mossley Mill on Tuesday night for a ‘special meeting’ to consider correspondence from the Department of the Environment regarding the arc21 planning application for the Boghill Road site.

The correspondence advised that should the council wish to appear before the Planning Appeals Commission a request must be made within 28 days.

NoArc21 campaigners gathered at the council’s headquarters ahead of the meeting to remind councillors of the considerable public opposition to the plan.

“arc21 seem to be committed to an appeal, so we will be there opposing them until such time as their campaign ceases,” Mr Buick continued.

“The campaign against arc21’s planning application will go on as long as arc21 continues to disregard the wishes of the local community, residents and politicians.”

South Antrim MLA Pam Cameron has reaffirmed her opposition to the arc21 project.

“Just when we thought the spectre of arc21 had left Mallusk they ask PAC to intervene. The fight goes on,” she tweeted.

It’s understood council members will debate the issue again before taking a decision on whether or not the council should support an appeal.

Meanwhile, arc21 has responded to criticism of its move to refer the Minister’s refusal decision to the PAC before seeking the support of its six constituent councils.

“arc21 will ensure that in regard to its proposals for new waste infrastructure, the appropriate democratic decision-making process, as outlined in the organisation’s governance framework, will continue to be adhered to,” a spokesperson said.