Plans to build a new £300m waste incinerator in north Belfast have been dumped following a meeting of the city’s council.
Councillors were last night urged to make a decision on whether or not to set aside land at the North Foreshore site, close to the M2 motorway, to develop a high-tech facility to deal with the city’s waste.
Had the plant been given the go-ahead it would have been used to convert waste into heat and electricity. It would also allow a group of local councils in the east of the province — known as arc21 — to deal with their waste as a means of meeting tough European regulations on waste disposal and landfill.
A public consultation had proved positive, with the majority of people who replied favouring the land being made available for burning waste to generate energy.
But just over two-thirds of councillors at last night’s meeting voted against an incinerator, meaning another council will have to be ready to provide a site for the plant.
A motion was put forward by Alliance Party councillor Tom Ekin that land should be released for the construction of two types of waste plant — an incinerator, known as an Energy from Waste (EfW) plant, and a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) works, which sorts and prepares waste for processing.
However, this was amended by Sinn Fein’s Michael Browne for a motion to allow for the land to be released for just an MBT plant. This was successfully passed following a recorded vote at the council.
Speaking following the meeting Mr Browne said his party’s policy would have prevented its members from supporting the EfW option.
“We see that as a form of incineration and we have a national policy against incineration,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have been comfortable with the Alliance Party proposal that we allow land in the North Foreshore to go forward for either MBT or EfW.
“At the same time we also need to address the issue of waste management and I believe MBT is an alternative that will see us through the short to medium term period at any rate.
“In terms of addressing the needs of people living in the city and relying on waste management services provided by the council, this is the most appropriate step forward.
“That’s not say that in a number of years we’re not going to have to return to the issue. MBT will leave us with a residue which at the moment can be landfilled. There will come a point when we’re not going to be able to landfill but certainly in the short to medium term we’ve arrived at a solution.”
However, Mr Ekin said he was “disappointed” that the option he had proposed was not accepted for the site.
“The best option according to the experts and the people in the area is to have two plants there side by side,” he said.
“(An EfW plant) has got to go somewhere. We’ve gone the first step. We spent a lot of money surveying people, they’re saying ‘get ahead and do something’.
“I understand that the best option if you are going to have one plant is to have the EfW one, but Sinn Fein have their policy dated from 2001 which says no to all incineration and is out of date.”