Minister refuses residual waste treatment facility

Date published: 27 March 2022

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon today refused planning permission for a large scale waste treatment facility on the site of the former Hightown Quarry, Boghill Road, Newtownabbey.

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The application by arc21 proposes a residual waste treatment facility that has the ability to thermally treat 300,000 tonnes per year of municipal waste. 

This is a regionally significant planning application meaning that the final decision rests with the Minister.

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.

Minister Mallon said: 

"I consider that this development for a residual waste treatment facility in the former Hightown Quarry of Boghill Road should be refused. I have carefully considered all the information before me and I have listened to the concerns of local people and their public representatives. There have been in excess of 5000 objections to this application.”

She added: 

“My priorities for this assembly mandate were to improve lives, connect communities, grow a balanced economy and tackle the climate emergency. In respect of the latter, I am committed to climate action, and promoting recycling is an important aspect in that regard. 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. I am not persuaded that there is a need for this specific facility. In that context I do not consider there to be any need for this proposal."

Notes to editors: 

  1. Planning application T/2014/0114/F was submitted to DOE Planning and Local Government Group on 27 March 2014.
  2. The applicants are arc21 waste management group.
  3. The site is located at Hightown Quarry, 40a Boghill Road, Ballyutoag, Co. Antrim.
  4. The application was for the development of a Residual Waste Treatment Facility incorporating a Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) facility, an Energy from Waste (EfW) Thermal Treatment facility, an Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) Treatment facility, a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) Bale Storage building, an Administration/Visitor Centre and related infrastructure including widening of the Boghill Road from its junction with Hydepark Road to west of the existing access road into Hightown Quarry site and other ancillary works.
  5. In September 2015 the DOE issued a Notice of Opinion (NOP) to refuse planning permission for the RWTF on the grounds that: (1) the proposal was not needed as the development could result in an increased market for waste disposal and could discourage recycling; and (2) the Department was not satisfied that the development would not cause harm to human health. 
  6. Following the Department’s opinion to refuse the application, the applicant (arc21) was afforded the opportunity of a hearing before the Planning Appeals Commission. The hearing was conducted in October 2016. 
  7. Subsequently the Commission provided its report and recommendation to the Department (DfI) on 9 March 2017. The Commission recommended that full planning permission be granted subject to conditions. 
  8. Following legal advice on the taking of decisions in the absence of Ministers, the Department concluded that planning permission could be granted and permission issued on 13 September 2017.
  9. This Departmental decision was the subject of judicial challenge by Colin Buick in November 2017. In May 2018 the High Court judged that the issuing of the decision was not capable of being taken in the absence of a Minister and that the Department had acted unlawfully in doing so (the ‘Buick case).  The Department’s subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal was unsuccessful and the Court of Appeal, on 06 July 2018, confirmed the High Court’s approach and judgement. The planning application was remitted back to the Department for determination.
  10. The Department received in excess of 5000 letters of objection and 168 letters of support.
  11. The application was designated one of major importance under Article 31 of the Planning (NI) Order and is now a Section 26 Regionally Significant application under the Planning Act (NI) 2011.
  12. The application was dealt with by the Department for Infrastructure’s Strategic Planning Directorate.
  13. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office atpress.office@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk.
  14. The Executive Information Service operates and out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800 hours and 0800 hours Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.  
  15. Follow the Department on Twitter @deptinfra and on Facebook @DepartmentforInfrastructure

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