Arc21 waste incinerator legal challenge still possible, hints DUP MLA

There could be further challenges to the decision by a Stormont minister to reject plans for a waste incinerator on the outskirts of north Belfast, a DUP MLA has suggested.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon announced on Sunday that she had refused planning permission for the waste management facility in Mallusk, Co Antrim that would have been capable of treating 300,000 tonnes of waste per year.

The proposal, put forward by a waste management body derived from a number of Northern Ireland councils known as Arc21, has been under consideration for almost a decade and has been the subject of both intense opposition and support.

DUP MLA Trevor Clarke has said that, without the waste treatment facility, he fears there will be an increase in the amount of rubbish ending up at landfill.

Speaking to the News Letter, Mr Clarke also questioned the way the decision was announced.

“I’m wondering how a decision is made, before an election, on a Sunday, on an issue which is cross-cutting and controversial,” he said.

“I would not be surprised to see further challenges to the minister’s decision, and the nature of that decision.”

He continued: “The question is now what we will do with the waste.

“The minister said she would much rather see increased recycling, but they’ve been working at recycling for a number of years and if they haven’t got it down now I can’t see how they’re going to get it down dramatically just because the minister has made this decision.

“I do fear we are going to see more landfill in the medium to long term – or indeed we are going to see more boats heading off to Maine in America where we saw that controversial stuff last year where some of it ended up at sea.

“How is that environmentally sound, to ship it on a gas guzzling or diesel-guzzling boat to ship it across the world rather than deal with it on our own shores?”

Mr Clarke added: “I would much rather have this close to me than a smelly, polluting landfill.

“I think it’s a bad decision and I think it’s bad that the minister has seen fit to make this decision, when it’s been in the process for so long, on the day that it was, in the mouth of an election, with no sitting Executive.”

Asked if that was the view of his party as a whole, Mr Clarke said: “There is no party position on this one. Some in the party share my view, some don’t.”

Asked whether Ms Mallon’s decision is likely to mean the end of the Arc21 proposals, Mr Clarke said: “I would not be surprised to see further challenges to the minister’s decision, and the nature of that decision.”

Announcing her decision on Sunday, Ms Mallon said she is “not persuaded that there is a need for this specific facility” which she said could could “discourage recycling”.