Belfast Telegraph

High Court challenge to RHI cuts delayed until 2020

Proceedings issued by a Co Antrim poultry farmer are understood to have been put on hold again
Proceedings issued by a Co Antrim poultry farmer are understood to have been put on hold again

By Alan Erwin

A High Court challenge to huge cuts in Renewable Heat Incentive payments will not get underway until next year, it has emerged.

Proceedings issued by a Co Antrim poultry farmer are understood to have been put on hold again until a major inquiry publishes its report into the botched scheme.

Sources have indicated the hearing is now expected to get underway at least six weeks after the independent tribunal led by Sir Patrick Coghlin reveals its findings.

The case centres on the decision to slash subsidies to those on the green energy initiative.

Legislation introduced earlier this year meant annual payments could be cut from £13,000 to £2,000.

But boiler owners who signed up the RHI scheme claim it is a further unlawful step against operators given a 20-year guaranteed rate of return on their investments.

Set up to encourage businesses and other non-domestic users to switch to wood pellet burning systems, the initiative was plunged into controversy after the potential cost to taxpayers emerged.

It led to the collapse of Stormont's power-sharing administration, and the establishment of the public inquiry chaired by Sir Patrick.

Members of the Renewable Heat Association NI Ltd are also appealing a previous ruling that the Department of the Economy was legally entitled to impose an earlier cut on tariff rates.

In September the legal challenge was adjourned to await the inquiry report, which at that stage was expected to be published sometime in November.

The findings are now unlikely to emerge before 2020, according to reports.

Although the court case was due to be heard next week, it has been taken out of the lists again because the report is likely to contain relevant material.

Andrew Trimble, chairman of the Renewable Heat Association, said: "It makes sense that the judicial review of the circumstances that led to the 2019 legislation should be delayed until there is a full understanding of how this scheme was managed from it's inception.

"That will only come from publication of the inquiry report."

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