Hundreds of people have already signed a petition against a controversial plan to build a £500 million ‘super incinerator’ on the outskirts of Derry.
It emerged yesterday that the Department of the Environment has ordered an internal investigation into why the public was not informed of planning approval for the major waste processing plant at Maydown.
The project has been described as one of the largest and most complicated public procurement exercises in Northern Ireland.
The plant was given the go-ahead in September 2011 but notification of this didn’t appear in the press until this year. Objectors said they had been denied the right to legally challenge the decision.
According to the regulations, members of the public should have been informed at the time of the decision. However the notification appeared in the media almost 18 months after the planners had approved the scheme. Objectors said that, by the time the advert did appear, the deadline for a legal challenge had passed.
The top civil servant at the DoE has now ordered an inquiry to find out what went wrong.
The DoE said that failing to notify the public in time was an “administrative oversight” which had “no bearing on the original decision to grant the approval”.
Three groups are behind the application - Derry-based Brickkiln, which specialises in waste management and civil engineering, Sisk, an international construction company, and international waste management business, Shanks.
According to the Brickkiln company website, the plant will handle 120,000 tonnes of waste annually and supply 30 Giga Watt hours of renewable electricity to the grid - that is enough to support the energy needs of 6,000 homes for a year.
It is estimated that the facilities will create 200 construction jobs and a further 40 full-time posts when they become operational.
However, a new group opposed to the plan for the ‘gasification’ plant - to be located at the Enviroparc on Electra Road - says there is “strong” public opposition across the region.
A spokesperson for North West Zero Waste - which will hand over its petition to Derry City Council next week - said: “Gasification is incineration under EU directives. They are the same thing under a different name.”
Voicing concern at possible health risks associated with such a venture, the spokesperson added: “All the evidence points to the fact that it is not possible to rule out adverse health effects from modern, well-regulated facilities with complete certainty. The truth of the matter is, there isn’t enough evidence to confidently prove there is no risk.”
No-one at Brickkiln was available for comment.