arc21, the public waste management body representing six Northern Ireland councils and Indaver, the European waste specialists behind plans to deliver an integrated waste management solution to meet the needs of arc21 members, have submitted a joint Pre-Action Protocol (PAP) letter to the Department for Infrastructure (DfI). This marks the first stage of a proposed Judicial Review of the recent decision by the Department to refuse planning permission for the proposed arc21 project which is designed to deliver a sustainable solution for the six councils’ black bin waste.
The organisations are challenging the decision by Nichola Mallon, the former Minister for Infrastructure. The decision went against the clear recommendation from the DfI Strategic Planning Directorate to approve the application, the fourth such time a recommendation to approve has been made, including by an independent Planning Appeals Commission review.
Speaking about this development, Jackie Keaney, Commercial Director Indaver and Becon Consortium said;
“Together with arc21 we are taking this legal challenge as we believe the Minister erred in law by refusing this application and this has been borne out by advice from her own DfI officials which was contained in correspondence revealed following an Environmental Information Regulations request. The rationale she provided for her decision could not be considered a robust planning reason and this was a point made clear to the Minister by her officials. The Minister’s most senior advisors in the Department alerted her to the very real risks of legal challenge, highlighting that such a challenge might be exceptionally difficult for the Department to defend, as well as raising the associated costs and reputational risks of doing so. The Minister chose to ignore this advice issuing her decision on the final day before the pre-election ‘purdah’ period.
“Our proposals represent a quarter of a billion pounds investment in much needed public infrastructure. This need was clearly identified in the Strategic Planning Directorates report to the Minister. This council owned asset will deliver a local, resilient solution for arc21’s black bin waste and will directly contribute to NI’s energy resilience and security of supply through the generation of sufficient electricity to supply 30,000 homes. With the ongoing energy crisis, recovery of energy from our non-recyclable waste is more important than ever and reduces the need to import expensive fossil fuels. It also offers significant economic benefits to arc21 councils from the sale of this sustainable energy onto the national grid.
To date the Becon Consortium has invested in the region of £12m in the development of this project. There has been significant investment over many years by the public sector too. Additional financial burden on the public purse by attempting to defend the Minister’s decision is not in the public interest. We await the Department’s response to our PAP letter before considering the next steps in the development of this critical piece of public infrastructure.”