Minister Mark H Durkan rejects plans for £240m incinerator
Plans for a multi-million pound waste incinerator on the outskirts of Belfast have been rejected.
Stormont's 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.
Arc21, the umbrella waste management group for 11 councils in the east of Northern Ireland, had proposed to construct the incinerator and waste sorting plant on the Boghill Road, Mallusk.
"I consider this development for a residual waste treatment facility in the former Hightown Quarry of Boghill Road should be refused," said Mr Durkan.
"I have carefully considered all the information before me. I have listened to the concerns of local people and their public representatives.
"To date there have been 3,526 objections and one petition of objection with 836 signatures."
He added: "I am committed to a policy of zero waste and have worked hard with councils to increase recycling rates."
"I want this to continue. 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."
Richard Gregory, the chairman of Mallusk Community Action Group, said: "We're especially delighted that the minister pointed out that there was no need for this monstrosity. There's only so much waste you can produce and more and more of that is being recycled.
"Once the amount of waste locally runs out they would have had to bring in waste from other areas because there wouldn't have been enough waste here to keep the plant going."
The company does have the right to appeal the decision to the Planning Appeals Commission, but Mr Gregory said the Mallusk group will not back down.
He said: "We will fight them again if we have to. We hope they don't appeal, but you never know, so we aren't going away."
Several groups helped with the campaign, including Friends of the Earth. Campaigner Declan Allison said: "We are pleased that the minister has turned this down.
"Now it's time to put in place a sustainable waste system to reduce the amount of waste we produce.
"We need to drop the obsession with the magic box that makes waste disappear."
While the plant would have sustained around 300 jobs, Arc21's proposal was controversial from the start with residents of Glengormley opposing it because of concerns about traffic and property prices.
Those behind the Arc21 project claimed the plant would divert up to 250,000 tonnes of municipal waste from landfill per year, and produce enough electrical power to sustain more than 30,000 homes.
The company said they were very disappointed at the minister's decision after planners recommended that the proposed incinerator be approved, subject to certain conditions, but the Environment Minister chose not to accept that advice.