Belfast Telegraph

We’ll take incinerator battle all the way to Europe say protesters

By Linda Stewart

Angry campaigners have vowed to take their battle against an incinerator fuelled by chicken litter to Europe if necessary after Environment Minister Edwin Poots gave it the green light.

Communities Against the Lough Neagh Incinerator (CALNI) slammed the approval of the controversial biomass plant near the Co Antrim village of Glenavy as “one of the worst planning decisions ever made in Northern Ireland” and announced they will be launching legal proceedings against the DoE within days.

The group vowed it would fight the incinerator every step of the way, even if it meant taking the case to the European Court of Justice.

The biomass plant proposed by Rose Energy will be powered by chicken litter, a by-product of Northern Ireland’s poultry industry, as well as meat and bone meal.

The farming lobby says the plant is crucial to the future of the poultry industry if the mountain of chicken litter produced every year is to be disposed of, but opponents insist a site close to the shore of Lough Neagh is no place for a large incinerator with an 80-metre chimney stack.

Minister Poots said the plant will produce approximately 30 megawatts of electricity as an output of the incineration process and will help Northern Ireland avoid large infraction fines for failing to meet the requirements of the European Commission’s Nitrates Directive, which restricts farmers from spreading chicken litter as a fertiliser.

”The power plant facility will create in the region of 300-400

construction jobs and approximately 30 permanent jobs in the operation of the facility once constructed,” Mr Poots said.

But CALNI president Danny Moore branded it one of the worst planning decisions ever made here, saying: “The fact that it has been made by a locally elected minister in the face of such overwhelming opposition marks a complete failure of both planning policy and the democratic process.

“CALNI has consistently warned Minister Poots and Rose Energy that if they chose to pursue this incinerator proposal at Glenavy, CALNI would fight them every step of the way, for years if necessary, all the way to the European Court of Justice.

“Thus CALNI is announcing its intention to launch legal proceedings against the Minister’s department to challenge this decision.”



Analysis

Game of chicken where neither will flinch

In the blue corner, the poultry industry which warns its future is at stake if the |£100m Rose Energy plant isn’t built near Lough Neagh.

And in the red corner, a vociferous public campaign which insists there are plenty of alternatives to a site in an Area of High Scenic Value.

Environment Minister Edwin Poots admits to having had to balance strong arguments on either side, but says he is satisfied it should be |approved.

Part of this is down to economic clout — more than £2m is generated by the poultry industry and Belfast Port. The scheme is also supported by Northern Ireland’s powerful farming lobby which warns that the poultry industry is under serious threat.

Thanks to recent EU laws, farmers can no longer spread chicken litter on their land as it could pose a pollution threat to waterways. Northern Ireland could face huge fines if no alternative is found — and the farming industry says the Rose Energy plant is the only viable plan in town.

The campaigners, however, say farmers should look at on-farm anaerobic digestion to dispose of chicken litter and that it has identified 30 alternative sites.

They note that 2,000 objections were enough to force a public inquiry into the proposed runway extension at George Best Belfast City Airport — they have 7,000.

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