Glenavy chicken waste legal challenge postponed

A legal challenge to a planned chicken waste incinerator in County Antrim has been put on hold.

It will now not go ahead until the Environment minister makes his final determination on the scheme.

The group launched a challenge after Edwin Poots announced his intention to approve planning in August 2010.

Mr Poots is expected to decide whether to issue a notice of opinion on the proposed power plant at Glenavy or to call a public inquiry.

Judicial review proceedings by a group opposed to the facility have now been adjourned until his intentions are confirmed.

The Campaign Against Lough Neagh Incinerator (CALNI) launched its challenge after Mr Poots issued a draft indication of his intention to approve planning for an incinerator he has said will create up to 30 permanent jobs.

The multi-million pound plant would use chicken waste, including poultry bedding and meat and bone meal, to produce electricity.

But the plans by Rose Energy, a group backed by poultry producers, has met opposition from local residents who argued the facility would blight Glenavy’s rural landscape and the natural beauty of the Lough Neagh area.

Objections

CALNI has also criticised the minister for not holding a proper and full public inquiry into the application.

Thousands of people have reportedly submitted objections to the project.

CALNI’s legal team have argued that their rights to property, privacy and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights would be prejudiced if the planning application was not stopped.

© BBC News, published 2nd March, 2011

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United Ireland – Norths planning and environmental protection as bad as Republic

Great article from Village Magazine and Anton McCabe on Northern Ireland’s poor planning and environmental record. The piece places particular focus on the CALNI campaign and the ‘major planning controversy’ that is the Moy Park incinerator.

United Ireland – North’s planning and environmental protection as bad as Republic’s

Environmental issues have been low in the North’s political agenda. They have, however, had political repercussions. First Minister Peter Robinson was perceived as close to developers in his East Belfast constituency. The main reason for his losing one of the safest seats in the UK Parliament after 31 years was the public perception that he and his wife, Iris, had been claiming excessive expenses; but a contributory factor was his support for building 300 houses on Knock Golf Club.

Peter Carr from Dundonald Greenbelt Association said the grant of planning permission on this site was in breach of five major planning policies. “It was an extremely highly protected piece of land”, he says. “It was a ‘landscape wedge’ – higher than Greenbelt. It separates Dundonald from East Belfast. If that could be overturned, what was the value of any protection? Any green space in Northern Ireland was not safe”.
Granting permission for such a large development in the North requires three senior planning officials to sign off on it. One of the three wrote that he was signing the planning permission under protest; this was unprecedented.

The prurient aspects of Robinson’s wife, Iris Robinson’s, relationship with 19 year old Kirk McCambley, distracted attention from a more serious question. Two property developers had each paid cheques of £25,000 (€29,864.74) when she asked them

Tillie and Henderson’s – mentioned in Das Kapital to assist McCambley. Clearly the developers believed it was useful to have influence with an MP and Assembly Member, whose husband was First Minister.

The North’s planning system is, in many ways, even worse than in the Republic. It is biased in favour of developers. Objectors do not have the right of third-party appeal. The Planning Service, which is part of the Department of the Environment, is the North’s planning authority. However, if developers are refused permission they have an automatic right of appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission. In the Republic both developers and third-parties can appeal. Thus, there is a perception that the Planning Service feels it is administratively easier to grant permission. To date, no planner in the North has ever been charged with, let alone convicted of, corruption. Rita Harkin of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society said: “The Planning System has been so heavily weighted in favour of developers (with its established policy presumption in favour of development) that it might be argued that there was no need for corruption”.

Politicians are active on planning issues; this is usually on the side of the developer. A briefing document from the NIPSA trade union said much time and resources in the Planning Service were taken up with “The political involvement in the process through lobbying by MPs, MLAs etc which is not a feature in planning authorities in Great Britain”, though it surely is in the Republic.

The pro-development bias extends to politicians, across the spectrum. There have been 284 objections to a proposed quarry at Mullaslin, Co Tyrone. It has received one letter of support – from local MP Pat Doherty of Sinn Féin: “Given that the current economic climate and the fact that the applicant is a contractor employing numerous workers, I am requesting that you once again look at the application with a view to fast tracking it” – the characteristic dynamic mirrors that in the Republic precisely.

One of the legacies of more than a generation of Direct Rule from Britain was that unelected officials gathered huge power. That has produced a culture of unaccountability at the top of the public sector.

A new Draft Planning Bill, now going through the Assembly, will return planning powers to local councils. It is planned to cut the present 26 councils to 11. Despite all the difficulties seen with planning powers vested in local councils in the Republic, this will mean at least there will be some degree of accountability to communities affected by decisions. There will still be no right of third-party appeal against grants of planning permission.

The Planning Service faces this challenge having lost 270 staff to downsizing. That represents about 40% of planners. Inevitably, it is facing workload problems. In a briefing document, the NIPSA trade union told the Assembly’s Environment Committee: “Importantly, despite the recent fall in applications, average annual caseloads continue to be well above that recommended for planning authorities in GB in the Addison Report, commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister”. Budgetary constraints have meant it has had to cut back on enforcement. NIPSA’s document said: “The perversity of the proposed cuts is that, in the absence of sufficient commitment to funding enforcement activity, this revenue generating aspect will be compromised”. This may also leave the North open to infraction proceedings from the European Union.

Currently, there are two major planning controversies in the North. They are a planned incinerator at Glenavy, Co Antrim, and the proposed A5 dual carriageway.

In August, environment minister Edwin Poots of the DUP announced he was ‘minded’ to giver permission for the incinerator. Danny Moore of CALNI (Campaign Against the Lough Neagh Incinerator) said Poots was under pressure from agri-business interests in DUP. At the time of writing permission has not been given.

The incinerator is proposed for a rural area outside Glenavy, on the east bank of Lough Neagh in south-west Antrim. It proposes to burn wastes from the North’s poultry industry, and will generate electricity. The developer is Rose Energy, owned by three agri-business companies.

Lough Neagh supplies drinking water for 40% of the North’s population. Randox Laboratories, one of the biggest employers in the area, said it is considering moving some of its manufacturing to Donegal if the incinerator is built.

CALNI has run a vigorous campaign. Objectors sent 6,782 letters of objection to Planning Service. CALNI has garnered unanimous support from Lisburn City Council, and all the North’s political parties.
Moore and CALNI question the economic viability of the project. He said there were other means of disposing of the waste. “The poultry industry in the Republic reckons the total cost should be between five million and ten million”, says Moore. “That’s about one or two percent of the turnover of Moy Park (one of the shareholders in the proposed incinerator – A McC)”.

CALNI commissioned a group of experts to draw up a report. Sir George Bain, former President of Queen’s University, chaired the group. It found the incinerator: Was the least efficient form of energy generation because it would operate at only 30% efficiency; Would generate toxic ash; Might not be sustainable, as the amount of local poultry litter available is not proven.

The A5 is the biggest road project ever proposed for the North. The proposal is for a dual carriageway from the Tyrone-Monaghan border at Aughnacloy to Newbuildings, on the southern outskirts of Derry. The Republic’s government is putting up 50% of the funding. This is £400million (€477.6million), at present, or approximately 50% of the state’s budget for road construction – before Brian Lenihan’s draconian budget. It has already paid £8.5million (€10.15million) for preparatory work, before a single sod has been turned. Traffic from the northern half of Co Donegal will also use the road to travel to Dublin.
Three roads built in the last decade are to be by-passed. These are the Newtownstewart bypass, finished in 2002 at a cost of £8.2million (€9.8million); Stage 2 of the Strabane bypass, finished in 2003 at a cost of £4.2million (€5million); and Phase 3 of the Omagh throughpass, finished in 2006 at a cost of £9.7million (€11.6million).

The road will occupy 4,000 acres of farmland. As well as taking farmland, the road will also split farms. This has led to an alliance between environmental campaigners and farmers – perhaps because of the greater prices paid to farmers in compensation in the Republic such alliances have been rare there. They have established the Alternative A5 Alliance. One of the proposals from some in the Alliance is to have a three-lane road with a railway running beside it. A provisional costing puts this at no more expensive than the proposed road. “The railway will be an alternative transport mode that will tend to constrain the growth of traffic on the A5, a strategy that the Department for Regional Development should have been proposing, not a protest group”, says Malcolm Lake, a member of the Alliance.

The controversy regarding the road is part of a wider Northern problem. Eighty per cent of spending on transport goes on roads. There are indications of a reduction rather than an increase in public transport. Six of the 11 daily bus services from Dublin to Derry are being removed after Christmas; this service is operated by Bus Éireann and Ulsterbus (part of Translink, the North’s publicly-owned transport company). Suburban rail in Belfast has suffered permanent under-investment. There are worries about the future of the North’s main internal railway line, from Belfast to Derry.

The obsession with roads is inhibiting the North’s ability to restrict greenhouse-gas emissions. While there is a commitment to reduce emissions, there is no climate-change legislation. Despite this, the North has made some progress. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions fell 11.1% between 1990 and 2008. During the same period, transport emissions increased by 35.9%. They now represent 24.9% of all emissions, the second-highest category.

There is also a concentration on airports. The North has three: the long-established Belfast International to the west of the city, Belfast City on the seafront in East Belfast, and City of Derry. Michael O’Leary has caused planning mayhem at the former two. Derry City Council pushed through an expansion of the airport runway, in the teeth of the opposition of local residents. O’Leary failed to get the same from Belfast City. Nevertheless, Northern Environment Minister Edwin Poots has already removed a cap on the number of flights from the airport. A survey by campaigners found noise from the airport interferes with the sleep of 78% of residents in the area.

The North has already lost significant parts of its built heritage. The North St Arcade in Belfast was a 1930s shopping arcade. It was destroyed in a malicious fire six years ago. One of the businesses lost was Terry Hooley’s record shop ‘Good Vibrations’. This played a very important part in the history of popular music in these islands, and beyond. ‘Good Vibrations’ was a focal point for musicians, and in particular punk musicians. The Royal Exchange retail development is planned to swallow this site. Only the arcade’s façade will be reinstated. The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society is seeking to have the arcade reinstated – a possibility, as the original architectural drawings still exist.

Tillie & Henderson’s factory in Derry was a major set-piece of 19th Century industrial architecture. When built in the 1850s it was the largest shirt factory in the world. It is mentioned in Volume 1 of Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’. Having been allowed to fall into dereliction, an unknown arsonist set it on fire. The developer who owned the building then demolished it. He is seeking permission to build a hotel on the site.
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society is currently seeking to stop the demolition of a row of vernacular buildings at Canal St, Newry. The buildings date from the city’s years as a major port, and are an important part of its industrial heritage.

The rural community in the Glens of Antrim has come under pressure because of holiday home development in the area. Former councillor Monica Digney said that lack of affordable housing is forcing young people to move out. “It is leaving the Glens with an ageing community, and people that come for a few weeks of the year for holiday homes”, she says.

Both mining and quarrying activity are controversial. Residents round Ireland’s only gold mine, near Omagh, have been fighting an on-going battle for some years. The Planning Service is currently investigating breaches of planning permission.

Despite devolution, the North’s political system is not yet environmentally sensitive. Though there was a strong campaign from Friends of the Earth and other organisations, there is no independent Environmental Protection Agency. The cuts in Planning Service mean that half the staff working on development plans have been redeployed.

The planning system remain pro-development. Planning Policy Statement 14 was perceived as restricting development in the countryside. The very first act of the new Assembly was to relax this constraint. Last summer, it was replaced with a less restrictive Policy Statement, Planning Policy Statement 21 ‘Sustainable Development in the Countryside’. Though a large multiple of rates in Britain, one-off housing remains in the North is built at rates that are still a fraction of those in the Republic where, in Monaghan for example) they are over 70%.

Much separates the political cultures of the Republic from its northern neighbour. In planning and environmental protection, however, short-termism and a libertarian faith in the rights of property drive a culture and a politics, and threaten to leave a legacy, that are eerily indistinguishable.

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Planning Service confirms lignite moratorium does not apply in Crumlin

CALNI President Danny Moore has expressed community dismay at a legal loophole which would mean that Lignite mining could happen in Crumlin, with the confirmation from Planning Service officials that the lignite moratorium will not apply in the Crumlin area.

The Planning Service confirmed that the proposed 3-year extension of the lignite moratorium, announced by Minister Foster is ‘separate and distinct’ from planning permission relating to the development of minerals.

“The application received by the Planning Service for the Crumlin area will be viewed as ‘extraction’ or development of lignite as opposed to ‘prospecting’ and will therefore not fall under the remit of the renewed moratorium. In effect there is a loophole,” revealed Mr Moore.

“The hits just keep coming for Crumlin and Glenavy. The local Ulster Farm By Products (UFBP) plant generated almost a thousand complaints to Northern Ireland Environment Agency over the last five years while the proposed Moy Park Incinerator is a continuing threat despite generating more than seven thousand objections, the largest number ever in Northern Ireland Planning History.

“Now the issue of open cast lignite mining has come to the fore again after twenty years. It is quite simply the industrialisation of Lough Neagh and its surrounding environment. The local community objects in the strongest possible sense and to date our views have been totally ignored by the Northern Ireland Executive.

“The focus of fear within the local community is the very real possibility that the proposed chicken litter incinerator could be dual fuelled with lignite. Even before the latest application to mine on the site our engineering advisors highlighted that a 60MW lignite burning power station was suggested for the area ten years ago. The proposed plant had a footprint similar to the incinerator so could in theory be built on the site.

“Crumlin and Glenavy are now bustling commuter zones with thousands of new households. The threatened location of an open cast lignite mine adjacent to one of our main sources of drinking water and only fifteen miles from Belfast City Centre is simply unacceptable.

“It is now time Ministers Poots and Foster clarified their position and acted in the very best interests of the people of Glenavy and Crumlin and the environment in Northern Ireland,” he demanded.

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DARD Estimates of Litter Disposal Costs Are Fantasy

Danny Moore, of CALNI has called on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to stop dealing in fantasy when it comes to the real cost of chicken litter disposal in Northern Ireland.

Mr Moore’s remarks come in response to an assembly question posed to Minister Gildernew by local SDLP MLA Thomas Burns, where the Minister answered with disposal figures for Northern Ireland that were nine times those of the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Burns asked Minister Gildernew how much it would cost annually to lawfully dispose of poultry litter produced in Northern Ireland, if the proposed Rose Energy incinerator at Glenavy were not to go ahead.

In her answer, Minister Gildernew put the potential cost of disposal at an estimated £90 per tonne of poultry litter. According to the Minister, over 200,000 tonnes of poultry litter is generated in Northern Ireland each year.

In response, CALNI President Danny Moore has said: “We estimate potential disposal costs to be in the region of £3 million to £5 million per year. This is based on the cost of chicken litter disposal in the Republic of Ireland, currently at approximately €12 per tonne, with a considerable safety factor.

“The figures speak for themselves. DARD is suggesting a figure of £18 million per year, almost 9 times what it would cost to dispose of a similar quantity of chicken litter in the Republic of Ireland today.

“Additionally, a senior industry source has told CALNI that DARD’s costing must account for the transport of the litter to a location such as East Anglia & Lincolnshire, with multiple drop and re-loadings. He considered the £90 per ton figure “unjustifiable and crazy”.

“DARD’s figures shed further light on some cold, hard facts surrounding the Moy Park incinerator.

“From our perspective, no sensible business would or should spend in excess of £100 million in order to solve what is most likely a £3 million to £5 million per year problem.

“Secondly, an annual figure of £5 million does not threaten the 7000 jobs within the poultry industry. Moy Park’s turnover between 2009 and 2010 was in the region of £780 million. Our figures suggest chicken litter disposal costs would account for around 0.5% of Moy Park’s total turnover. “

Mr Moore concluded: “The £90 per tonne litter disposal cost is fantasy; an artificially inflated costing in an attempt to provide justification for an inappropriate project.”

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First Lough Neagh Ice Barbeque Since 1963!

For the first time in over 40 years more than 70 people gathered on a frozen Lough Neagh shore just 100 metres north of the mouth of the Glenavy River, for a traditional Winter Barbecue. Lough Neagh was frozen 3 miles out past Rams Island since Monday 20th December and the Barbeque was held there because the bay stretches to 50 acres with water no more than 3ft deep, the safest spot on Lough Neagh!

The event was hosted by local businessmen Danny Moore, (president of CALNI Communities Against the Lough Neagh Incinerator and formerly of NYSE Euronext) and Peter Fitzgerald, Randox CEO. The gathering took place about 500 meters from the proposed Moy Park Incinerator site on Thursday 23rd December.

According to Danny Moore his is a very old, local tradition, the previous Ice Barbecue happened in the last big freeze of 1963 and it may not happen again if the Moy Park incinerator is passed.
The tradition of “Ice Barbecues” held on this spot was carried on with the Hillis family who held barbecues on the ice in 1947 & 1963; and based on folklore it was held during every big freeze in the 1700s & 1800s.

One or two of the older guests including farmer Dan Moore, aged 76 from the Shore Road who has now attended the last three events! The impromptu gathering was a last minute surprise for the local community, with many there saying they wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

“The ice barbeque is a unique tradition in our area, with records of the event taking place two or three times a century since 1700. There is a stretch of sheltered shallow water running for a mile and a half from Ingrams Road to Lennymore and the Crumlin River which generally provides some of the best and safest ice on Lough Neagh if not Northern Ireland.

“We grabbed the opportunity to maintain the tradition. It also serves to highlight a key aspect of the local opposition to the planned Moy Park Incinerator which would see 60 tonnes of warm water released into the Glenavy River every hour which would certainly put an end to Lough Neagh Ice in the area. The same conditions that make the shallow bays the first to freeze make them unique spawning grounds for cold water fish species, including Pollen. We fear that the water discharge from the proposed plant will do permanent damage to the ecosystem,” explained Danny Moore.

Locals of all ages – from aged 6 to 86 – enjoyed burgers and hot dogs while standing on the ice at the shallow frozen Lough Shore.

Glenavy company, Cabbage Patch, provided the food – venison burgers, hot dogs and beef burgers. -12 degrees didn’t put people off – everyone wrapped up warm in their winter gear, but the party didn’t wrap up until 11 pm. Some people even brought their ice skates, so children, parents and grandparents could be seen skating around the gathering of locals under moonlight of the clear night sky.

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