Belfast Telegraph

MLAs share blame for 'faceless' bureaucrats' power plant decision, says anti-incinerator campaigners

By Jonathan Bell

Campaigners against a proposal to build a major power plant on the outskirts of Belfast have said Northern Ireland politicians have to shoulder some of the blame for the decision to allow the project to go ahead.

On Wednesday the Department for Infrastructure approved the large-scale incinerator project which will generate electricity in Mallusk. Thousands objected to it and in 2015 the then Environment Minister Mark H Durkan rejected the plan saying it was not needed.

His decision was overturned on appeal with the decision announced on Wednesday. Arc21, the consortium behind the project said it would likely be next year before it is in position to award the contract for the build.

Colin Buick, chair of No Arc21 which campaigned against the plan said the approval was "hugely devastating".

"And we would call into question why it was passed without a minister in place.," he said.

"However, bad you may think our government was, at least we had elected accountable representatives. This decision has been taken by a faceless bureaucrat sitting behind a desk who we can't ask questions of."

The group is considering legal action against the plan, which it argues is not needed. Campaigners argue the roads are not suitable, there is another facility in an industrial facility in Belfast which can handle the work and ultimately the plan could deter recycling efforts.

This decision was for an elected politician to take, not an unelected, unaccountable civil servant

"It's a massive white elephant. There is not the infrastructure in place in what is a growing residential area with a good mix of different communities. This project has meant some have put their lives on hold and will now be considering if they want to continue living in the area.

"But our fight goes on."

Richard Gregory head of the Mallusk Community Action Group said the decision was "hugely disappointing".

"It is disappointing there is no minister involved that we can go to on this and get the answers as to why. Instead we have be informed of this decision from the Press.

"It's pure madness. Faceless bureaucrats making decisions are the out workings of the repercussions of not having political agreement or being self-governing.

"Our politicians have to take some of the responsibility. We should have elected people in place to administer the province."

UUP MLA Steve Aiken questioned the timing of the decision.

“This decision was for an elected politician to take, not an unelected, unaccountable civil servant," he said.

"It is outrageous that such a decision has been made at this time. Why was this regionally significant decision made now, rather than wait for either a devolved or Direct Rule Minister to take the decision?

“This is just a further consequence of some parties in Northern Ireland abdicating their democratic responsibility to provide devolved government and to take what are the important and difficult decisions."

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly described the decision as a disgrace.

“Residents and all the elected representatives in the area were united in their opposition to the Hightown incinerator.

“Sinn Fein believe the way to deal with waste is reuse, reduce and recycle.”

Arc21 welcomed the decision.

“Today’s decision will enable arc21 to progress its plans to deliver new waste infrastructure. The proposed facilities will help bring the region into line with European best practice, significantly reduce our over-reliance on landfill, enhance recycling rates and help tackle illegality in the waste sector," it said in a statement.

"Representing an investment of c.£240m, it is one of Northern Ireland’s largest infrastructure projects with considerable economic benefits.”

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