After delays lasting near five years, controversial plans for a massive £100m chicken waste incinerator on the shores of Lough Neagh were finally rejected.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood has been accused of putting jobs in Northern Ireland at risk by rejecting controversial plans for a £100m chicken waste incinerator on the shores of Lough Neagh.
The DUP warned that business would be forced out of the province at a time when jobs are most needed unless a solution to the poultry waste proposal is found.
The Assembly passed a motion urging Mr Attwood to set out a viable alternative solution.
Speaking afterwards, DUP agriculture spokesman Paul Frew said the poultry sector is a vital part of Northern Ireland’s economy, sustaining around 7,000 jobs and contributing 14% of the gross output from the agri-food industry.
“Expanding the sector, however, will add to the 260,000 tonnes of poultry litter which is already produced each year, a large proportion of which cannot be disposed of sustainably at present,” he said.
“By failing to support the only viable proposal to deal with this waste it inhibits this expansion and forces business out of Northern Ireland at a time we can least afford it.”
Mr Frew said that there was no viable alternative to an incinerator project, which was designed to power 25,000 homes by burning chicken waste and bone meal. “The only other high-handed option handed down to the local industry is to export the waste,” he said.
“What in effect would happen, however, would be the export of the business out of Northern Ireland rather than the waste.”
The company behind the incinerator plan, Rose Energy — owned by Moy Park — also proposed a water abstraction facility and pipeline to pump 160 cubic metres of water an hour from Lough Neagh.
Waste water would then be treated, cooled and pumped into the Glenavy River.
During the debate, Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin argued: “The lough is not a suitable site for an incineration plant and the proposal to abstract water would have damaged the world-renowned wetland ecosystem and wildlife on the lough.
“Much of the ecosystem depends primarily on the water from the lough, which in turn affects the eel fisheries on Lough Neagh.”
Traditional Unionist Voice MLA Jim Allister argued that Mr Attwood’s verdict was a “kick in the teeth” for the agriculture industry here.