Hightown Incinerator

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 26th April 2021.

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Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP 3:00 pm, 26th April 2021

7. Dr Aiken asked the Minister for Infrastructure whether she has received a letter signed by some Members of Parliament in relation to the Hightown incinerator. (AQO 1939/17-22)

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I confirm to the Member that I received a letter from the office of Sammy Wilson MP on 11 February of this year. The letter, which was endorsed by the eight DUP Members of Parliament, outlined strong support for the delivery of planning approval for the proposal and asked that I make a quick determination on the application. I received further communication from Paul Girvan MP on 1 April to clarify that this letter did not represent his views on the proposal and that his view remains that my Department must decide on this application to bring the matter to a conclusion. He asked that the Department update its record to ensure that this view on the application is properly reflected.

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

I thank the Minister for her answer. I am sure that she is as confused as I am by what the MP for South Antrim said.

Given representations from the council, councillors and many elected representatives across the entire region, not just south Antrim, will the Minister confirm the continued opposition to the Hightown incinerator, to which many, including me, have referred to as "RHI 2"? We want this incinerator planning brought to a conclusion rapidly so that we can bin this ridiculous project.

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

This application has attracted huge interest. In excess of 5,200 letters of objection and around 160 letters of support are associated with it. The Member will appreciate that, within planning, there are proper processes to be followed. That is what is occurring in this case, as in all cases. As soon as my officials are in a position to be able make a recommendation to me, I will ensure that they do so.

Photo of Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin

It is not often that I agree with Steve Aiken, but he described the position exactly as I would. Does the Minister agree that the assessment of the amount of waste that would be necessary for the capacity that has been talked about does not exist?

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 26th April 2021

I thank the Member for his question. The question of the need for the facility is a matter for the applicant and DAERA. Given the passage of time and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, my Department asked DAERA for an update on a statement of need in the context of the proposed development and the strategic and long-term needs for waste management and its circular economy in the North. A response is awaited from DAERA. However, the need for the facility is a key material planning matter for my planning officers to consider when making a recommendation to me on the application.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

A very brief question from Mr Allister.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Does the Minister not agree that it is ridiculous to have waited for over seven years for a decision on that planning application? Meanwhile, councils cannot properly meet their statutory obligations, and we are exporting waste to be incinerated and dumped elsewhere. How is that helping to clean up our world?

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for his question. I am keen to reach a resolution to that long-standing application for all involved. If a sound decision is to be reached, it is important that the planning process is completed properly. The necessary administrative processes are being undertaken, including requesting consultation advice from the necessary interested bodies and public authorities. Once all the processes have been undertaken, I assure the Member that my officials will make a recommendation to me.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

That concludes the period for listed questions. We now move to topical questions. Question 1 from Mr Doug Beattie has been withdrawn.