They issued the appeal after arc21, the public waste management body representing the local authorities and Indaver, the private firm behind plans for the waste treatment facility, 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 project.
Reacting to the latest development in the long-running project, Colin Buick, chairman of the No-Arc21 campaign group, said: “No-Arc21 is calling on all six constituent arc21 councils, to withhold consent for the Judicial Review and to refuse to fund it.
“The refusal of planning permission by former DfI Minister Nichola Mallon, is a perfectly legitimate and democratically accountable decision. It must be allowed to stand.”
In March, then Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon announced that she had refused planning permission for the large scale waste treatment facility in the Boghill Road area of Mallusk. For more on the application’s refusal, read here
Explaining the reasons behind the legal action, 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.
“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.”
arc21’s six partner councils are: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Belfast City Council, Ards and North Down Borough Council, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
Campaigners have been voicing opposition to proposals since they were first unveiled in March 2013. Among their concerns are visual impact, light and noise pollution and health implications. They also question the economic benefit of the project.
Mr Buick added: “We are shocked and disgusted that arc21 is seeking to squander more public money on this doomed project, by attempting to legally challenge a completely legitimate planning decision by a Stormont government minister.
“It should be remembered that this planning application was refused by a previous Environment Minister Mark Durkan, and successfully challenged in the courts by No-Arc21. There is comprehensive and widespread political opposition to the project from all political parties in South Antrim.”