Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew has again voiced her desire to see a public inquiry held into the proposed Rose Energy incinerator at Glenavy.
Ms Gildernew told the DUP’s Peter Weir, who asked what representations her department had made in relation to the planning application for a biomass plant, that she had written to Environment Minister Edwin Poots to express the view that a public inquiry was the appropriate way forward.
“My ministerial responsibilities span both poultry farmers who have poultry litter to dispose of and those who live in the rural Community around Glenavy,” she said.
“I am eager that the views and concerns of farmers, local residents and all those potentially affected by the proposed plant are taken into consideration.
“The poultry sector is a significant part of our local agriculture industry and it is important that we seek an agreed way to ensure its future sustainability and protect the interests of poultry farmers as well as the wider community.
“As a consultee in the planning process, my department has provided advice on its areas of expertise at the request of the Planning Service”.
Mr Poots, meanwhile, has faced questions about the Ulster Farm By-Products site, also in Glenavy.
The SDLP’s Thomas Burns asked, in a written question, if he considered the plant to be “fit for purpose” and whether it was meeting the terms and conditions of its operating licence,
The Minister told him the techniques employed on the site, including those for odour abatement, were in line with those used on similar plants in the rest of Northern Ireland and throughout the UK.
“A proposal to install a higher exhaust stack to improve dispersion is currently awaiting planning permission,” he added.
The Minister went on; “NIEA has taken enforcement action against Ulster Farm By-Products for failing to comply with permit conditions.
“The company was prosecuted on eight occasions over the period 2002-2008 for offences concerning the effluent discharge, but to NIEA’s knowledge no further breaches have occurred since October 2008.
“Four enforcement notices were issued during 2006-2008 for other aspects of the operation.
“NIEA will continue to assess the company’s compliance with its permit and take appropriate enforcement action where necessary”. In reply to a follow-up question from Mr Burns, Mr Poots said an incident at the plant earlier this month, when cooker gas by-passed the plant condensers, which gave rise to a steamy plume, was clue to an ongoing problem with the effluent treatment plant.
“This mode of operation is in line with the original plant designs and is likely to continue until the effluent treatment plant problems are resolved,” he said. “NIEA officials are liaising with the company to seek resolution of the problem.”
The Ulster Farm By-Products facility also came under attack from Sinn Fein’s Mitchel McLaughlin.
He asked Mr Poots about the level of complaints received annually about nuisance odours, details on a dossier provided to the Minister, Invest NI and Planning Service on pollution at the site, and asked for an “assessment of whether Ulster Farm By-Products, a subsidiary of Rose Energy’s partner Glenfarm, has an unacceptable environmental track record in relation to water pollution and nuisance odours”.
Mr McLaughlin also asked what weight the Minister and his department had given to evidence of ongoing problems with Glenfarm in light of almost 7,000 objections lodged against the proposed incinerator at Glenavy.
The Minister, in response, said 229 complaints had been received in 2006; 187 the following year; 258 in 2008; and 131 last year. Confirming that a dossier had been presented to himself and the other bodies named, Mr Poots went on to say that the NIEA had taken enforcement action against Ulster Farm By-Products in relation to its effluent discharge to the Glenavy River and for other aspects of the operation which may have contributed to odour.
Some 6,782 letters of objection and one objection petition had been received by Planning Service in relation to the two Rose Energy planning applications, said the Minister.
“I can confirm that all objection issues have been fully considered by Planning Service in their determination of the two planning applications.
“The issues contained within the dossier of information regarding the adjacent Ulster Farm By-Products facility have been given appropriate weight by the department in tire determination of the Rose Energy proposal.”
© Farm Week, Friday 22nd October, Page 7