26 June 2018

Arc 21 appeal process continues

The appeal by Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure over a High Court decision which said its incinerator programme was against the law continues today,  writes Sarah Horton.

Yesterday, an appeals court in Belfast heard arguments from both sides of the debate surrounding the approval of an incinerator.

Community group NoArc21 said that its arguments against the project are being heard today.

The appeal relates to a decision made by Mrs Justice Keegan in May, where she said approving the £240m waste incinerator on the outskirts of north Belfast without a minister being in post was unlawful.

Turned down

In 2015 the scheme had been turned down by the then Environment Minister, Mark Durkan.

But a consortium behind the project on behalf of six local councils, Arc21, was given permission after the Planning Appeals Commission recommended approval.

In September last year the Department for Infrastructure said it was in the public interest for the waste management system to be built, describing it as being of strategic importance for the region. However, this decision was taken without a permanent minister in post.

The permanent secretary of the department for infrastructure, Peter May, approved the incinerator later that month. But his decision was overturned by the High Court in May 2018.

Legal authority

The £240 million incinerator was to be situated in Hightown, Mallusk in north Belfast.

In the decision over-turning Peter May’s approval, Mrs Justice Keegan supported claims that senior civil servants did not have the legal authority to approve the major waste disposal facility at Hightown Quarry in Mallusk.

Mrs Justice Keegan asserted: “I do not consider that Parliament can have intended that such decision making would continue in Northern Ireland in the absence of ministers without the protection of democratic accountability.”

Objections

Over 4,000 letters were sent by residents who objected to the incinerator, listing reasons such as the visual impact of the building, possible light and noise pollution and health implications. The judicial review proceedings were issued by Colin Buick, chairperson of community group NoArc21.

A spokesperson for Arc21 said: “Arc21 remains committed to the delivery of modern waste infrastructure for Northern Island and the environmental and economic benefits that it will provide.”

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