NI’s reputation on world stage ‘will be damaged unless incinerator goes ahead’

Northern Ireland must approve a scheme for a huge rubbish-burning plant or suffer a blow to its international reputation, a report says.

By Adam Kula
Monday, 29th June 2020, 5:13 pm
Updated Monday, 29th June 2020, 5:38 pm
Artist's impression of the Hightown incinerator
Artist's impression of the Hightown incinerator

The report, written by consultancy Grant Thornton and published today, looks in depth at the proposed incinerator at Hightown, near Glengormley in Newtownabbey.

The project has had a troubled history, facing local opposition from residents and eventually being subject to a High Court ruling in 2018 which said that a top civil servant had been wrong to give the blueprints the green light, in the absence of a minister.

Now a spokesman handling queries about the report has told the News Letter modified plans have been submitted, and look set to be decided by either the Department for Infrastructure minister (the SDLP’s Nichola Mallon) or the Executive as a whole.

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The report into the scheme concludes that the project should go ahead for a variety of reasons.

The press release accompanying the report describes it as “independent”.

The spokesman said it was commissioned by Indaver, the private firm which is lined up to construct the plant.

The report says “16 years and £15m in public and private development money will have been wasted” if it is not approved, adding that to scotch the plans would mean that “the reputation of Northern Ireland to approve complex projects will be damaged”.

In Great Britain there are currently 50 energy-from-waste plants operational (and 17 under construction).

Among other claims, the report says the development will “enhance Northern Ireland’s security of supply and increase diversity of energy production” by providing 18MW of electricity to the National Grid – “enough to power in excess of 30,000 homes”.

The report says Northern Ireland produces roughly a million metric tonnes of waste per year (working out at roughly 1.2 tonnes per household) – of which about 50% is recycled.

That leaves question marks over what to do with the remaining 500,000 tonnes of residual waste.

The incinerator would burn about 300,000 tonnes of this waste annually, the report says.

Presently, about 280,000 tonnes of waste is landfilled and approximately 130,000 tonnes exported to energy plants in Europe according to the report.

The project is largely being driven by a group called ARC21: it is a consortium of the six councils in the east of the Province, covering about 1.1 million people.

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