Hightown incinerator plan: Public meeting hears claims that councillors have been threatened with legal action

Members of the NoArc21 campaign group and local politicians addressing the public meeting in the Academy Hub, Mallusk on Thursday, April 28. INNT 17-514-SO
Members of the NoArc21 campaign group and local politicians addressing the public meeting in the Academy Hub, Mallusk on Thursday, April 28. INNT 17-514-SO

More than 150 people packed into the Academy Hub in Mallusk last Thursday to voice their opposition to arc21’s Hightown incinerator plan.

The public meeting, organised by the NoArc21 campaign group, was addressed by a range of local political and community representatives, who reaffirmed their opposition to the controversial plan for a £240m waste processing plant on the Boghill Road.

There have been around 4,000 objections to arc21’s plan for Hightown Quarry. The regional waste management body’s planning application for the project was turned down by the Environment Minister last year, but an appeal has since been lodged with the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC).

“We were delighted with the large turnout from local people who once again demonstrated their vehement opposition to this huge waste incinerator on their doorstep,” said NoArc21 chairman Colin Buick. “It is clear that there are widespread concerns among the residents of Hightown, Mallusk, Glengormley, North Belfast and South Antrim around issues such as traffic, visual impact, health, odour and the substantial cost to the ratepayer.”

Representatives of all the major political parties attended the meting, with Pam Cameron (DUP), Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein), Cllr Paul Michael (UUP), Cllr Nichola Mallon (SDLP) and Cllr John Blair (Alliance Party) speaking as part of the panel of politicians and NoArc21 campaigners.

The NoArc21 chairman continued: “All parties restated their views that the incinerator would have a devastating effect on the area and questioned the need for the facility in light of the progress made at the Full Circle Generation waste facility at Bombardier in east Belfast. This plant has sufficient capacity for Northern Ireland to meet its waste to landfill requirements.”

Again calling on arc21 to bin its controversial plan, Mr Buick stressed that not all of its constituent councils are in favour of the Hightown project and questioned the validity of the appeal to the PAC.

During the meeting, claims were also made that local councillors have been “threatened” with possible legal action if they fail to support the arc21 plan.

Responding to the suggestion that local councillors have been “threatened with legal action”, a spokesperson for arc21 said: “As with any project, it is incumbent upon arc21 to provide councillors with all the information they require to make fully informed decisions. Throughout all stages of the project arc21 has provided a wide range of information, including independent legal advice from senior counsel, to enable councillors to make fully informed decisions.”

No one from arc21 attended Thursday’s meeting, sparking criticism from NoArc21 campaigners and local residents.

Responding to the criticism, the arc21 spokesperson added: “arc21 believes that the best format for a constructive and balanced discussion of the issues would be for arc21 and No-arc21 to jointly organise a public meeting. We have suggested to No-arc21 that the meeting would take place in advance of the Planning Appeals Commission’s hearing and are currently awaiting their response.

“In addition, arc21 has also reiterated its offer to facilitate a visit to similar facilities in County Meath for No-arc21, and to recommence liaison meetings which would provide a forum for more detailed and focused discussions.”

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