Anaerobic Digester Plants: Planning Permission

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 3rd November 2020.

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Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green 2:30 pm, 3rd November 2020

T2. Ms Bailey asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, after thanking him for an answer that she received to a priority question for written answer, in which he confirmed that anaerobic digester (AD) plants that treat agricultural waste must have planning permission in place before his Department will issue a waste management licence, to state whether any waste management licences have been issued retrospectively and whether any AD plants that treat agri-waste are operating without planning permission. (AQT 602/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

The answer to that question is quite clear. If you establish an anaerobic digester prior to having planning permission, you will not get your waste management licence. If you get your planning permission retrospectively, you can apply for your waste management licence.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Minister for not answering the question. Further to that, we know from your stats, Minister, that in some of our special areas of conservation, ammonia levels breach our current regulations by up to 350%, year-on-year. That is exacerbated by those AD plants at times. What enforcement or regulation powers does his Department have to take action?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

It is interesting that the Member is against green energy from taking materials like animal waste and slurry and turning that into gas, which can then be used for electricity in people's homes and businesses. It is an interesting line that the Green Party is opposed to green energy in that instance.

We can go down blind alleys with ammonia, or we can actually tackle the problem. We have an ammonia strategy that will be ready to launch in the very near future, and we will be able to reduce ammonia levels significantly. Nobody has done that up until now. That has not happened up to this point. However, it will happen under this Minister.