Taxpayers' RHI cash heating car dealer's Ferrari showroom

A Ferrari showroom in Belfast is one of many businesses across Northern Ireland to benefit from the deeply flawed Renewable Heating Incentive scheme.

Monday, 12th December 2016, 5:49 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:37 pm
The Charles Hurst Ferrari showroom at Boucher Road in Belfast

The government grant system aimed to cut the cost of green energy to encourage people to switch to eco-friendly wood-burning boilers, but it ended up landing Stormont with a massive £400m overspend.

It emerged on Monday that the scheme was used to heat the Charles Hurst Ferrari showroom on Belfast’s Boucher Road and could potentially to do so for the next 20 years.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the firm.

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A spokesperson for Charles Hurst Group said the company had entered into the RHI in good faith and had not intended to disadvantage taxpayers.

The firm now plans to carry out a review of the scheme.

A statement said: “Like many businesses and organisations across Northern Ireland, Charles Hurst legitimately and fairly engaged with the RHI scheme based on the information which was provided and which was publicly available at the time.

“As a responsible business with almost 1,000 staff at locations across Northern Ireland, reducing our carbon footprint is a key priority for us and the scheme as it was presented was usefully employed to assist us in meeting that requirement.

“Charles Hurst entered into the scheme entirely in good faith and we publicly and specifically outlined our engagement at the time, as well as the environmental benefits which it offered.

“At no stage did we seek to disadvantage taxpayers and we were not in receipt of any knowledge at the time that this might be the case.”

The spokesperson said that, when the firm signed up to the scheme, it had believed the funding available was ring-fenced by the Northern Ireland government.

“Given the information that has come to light over the past few weeks, we will be undertaking a review of the scheme and how it applies to our business,” the statement concluded.

The botched RHI scheme racked up a huge overspend before it was eventually closed earlier this year. Overall, more than £1 billion of public cash will be paid by 2036 to businesses which signed up to the initiative.

Management of the scheme is currently being examined by MLAs on Stormont’s public accounts committee.