Huge incinerator power plant to be built despite thousands of objections and rejection by minister
A plan to build a large-scale energy for waste facility in Northern Ireland has been given the go-ahead despite thousands objecting to the plan and a former minister saying there was "no need for the facility".
In 2016 Stormont's then Environment Minister Mark H Durkan refused an application for the £240m facility on the old Hightown quarry site near Newtownabbey after complaints from thousands of residents and concerns over the impact on recycling rates.
However, the Department for Infrastructure said it was in the public interest to approve the plan given its "strategic importance to the region".
The plant, which was to be similar in size to Wembley Stadium, would receive rubbish sort it into waste and recyclable material before burning the unusable material to generate electricity.
Those behind the plan claimed the plant's output could power around 30,000 homes a day with the project having a £1billion value.
However, the plan faced huge public opposition with residents close to the site arguing the proposed location for the facility was inappropriate. Over 4,000 objections were made to the scheme and one petition lodged with the department with over 800 signatures.
The matter was referred to the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC). It held a meeting in October 2016 with its decision published today.
In a statement, the Department for Infrastructure said: "During the two day hearing, the commission heard submissions and considered evidence from all parties before presenting its findings to the department.
"The PAC report includes full consideration of the planning issues and recommends that planning permission is granted. Importantly, the report endorses the strategic need for the facility, its compliance with regional policy and the significant environmental benefit in terms of meeting waste management/treatment targets and assisting in the battle against waste crime.
"In arriving at the final decision, the department carefully considered and agreed with the independent report and recommendations. The planning conditions attached to the permission also take account of the PAC’s considerations."
Rejecting the original plan in 2015, Mark H Durkan said: "This development could result in an increased market for waste disposal and to maintain a facility such as this, in addition to the other approved waste facilities, could discourage recycling.
"In that context I do not consider there to be any need for this proposal."