MLAs’ ‘steadfast’ opposition to Newtownabbey incinerator plan welcomed

Campaigners have welcomed cross-party opposition from MLAs to the proposed arc21 incinerator at Hightown Quarry in Mallusk.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 4:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th May 2021, 12:24 pm

Elected members from across the political spectrum contributed to an ‘adjournment’ brought to the Assembly by South Antrim UUP MLA Dr Steve Aiken on Tuesday (May 18).

arc21, made up of six constituent local authorities in Northern Ireland, is behind proposals for a residual waste treatment facility in the Boghill Road area of Newtownabbey.

The facility is designed to deal with waste from a significant portion of the population and includes Mechanical and Biological Treatment, Energy from Waste Thermal Treatment and Incinerator Bottom Ash Treatment facilities, plus a Refuse Derived Fuel Bale Storage building and an administration/visitor centre.

An artist's impression of the proposed facility.

The debate was entitled ‘Opposition to a waste incinerator from the residents of Hightown, Mallusk and South Antrim’.

No-Arc21, a campaign group established to oppose the waste treatment plans, said it was delighted that MLAs from the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP, Alliance, Green Party and People Before Profit voiced opposition to the siting of the facility near thousands of residents.

Dr Steve Aiken (UUP), Pam Cameron (DUP), Declan Kearney and Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein), John Blair (Alliance), Mark Durkan (SDLP), Clare Bailey (Green) and Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit) all spoke against the proposed facility.

South Antrim DUP MLA Trevor Clarke, who had reiterated his support for the project in February of this year, addressed the chamber on Tuesday to again back the scheme.

Highlighting her position as Infrastructure Minister, North Belfast SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon closed the debate by stating: “I am very aware of the large number of objections to the planning application and the opposition that exists locally. I fully appreciate the concerns that people have about such development. It is an important aspect of our planning system that everyone can have a say on proposals that may affect them. In considering representations and applications, due process must be followed by my department.

“It is important to me, as Infrastructure Minister, that any planning decision taken is robust and sustainable and that it is taken in an open and transparent manner on its planning merits. That approach applies to this application as it does to any other. I will not come to any conclusions on the processing of the application until I have fully considered the report and the recommendation from my planning officials. It is important that I take an objective view of applications. It is also important that any decision be balanced, fair, impartial and robust in all the processes followed. In the meantime, I assure members that my officials continue to process the application at pace and in line with the planning policy to a point where a recommendation can be made for my consideration.”

In a statement issued after the debate, Colin Buick, chairman of No-Arc21, said: “The planning application for this project has been refused by a previous Environment Minister, as well as being successfully judicially reviewed in the courts. The planning appeals commission has also raised significant concerns. In this context, we welcome the fact that the objection from current political representatives also remains steadfast.”

He added that during the debate many of the group’s concerns were addressed.

Mr Buick continued: “I thank those MLAs who represented the views of thousands of their constituents during this Assembly debate and we once again call on the current DfI (Department for Infrastructure) Minister, Nichola Mallon, to refuse the current planning application once and for all to bring this long running saga to a close.”

Campaigners have been voicing opposition to proposals since they were first unveiled in March 2013. Among their concerns are visual impact, light and noise pollution and health implications. They also question the economic benefit of the project.

Following the collapse of the Assembly, DfI announced in September 2017 that full planning permission had been granted for the waste disposal facility at the Hightown Quarry site. However, the Court of Appeal subsequently ruled that Stormont officials did not have the legal authority to grant such permission

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Click here to read: Anti-incinerator campaigners meet with arc21

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