Derry could be waste capital of NI

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Plans for a gasification/incineration plant near Strathfoyle grow curiouser and curiouser.

Why is the SDLP more gung-ho for the project than any other party? Spokesman Shaun Gallagher, seems positively evangelical.

Why was it necessary for the Department of the Environment (DoE) in December last year to allocate £35 million to keep the procurement process on track towards the Preferred Bidder stage - almost two years after it had emerged that there was only one bidder in the field?

How come alarm bells didn’t ring when it became clear that the facility wouldn’t be viable unless huge amounts of waste were shipped in from outside? It is a fact, not a slogan, that building the plant would make Derry the waste capital of Northern Ireland. Why hasn’t there been a public debate about this?

Are some of the interests backing the plan fearful that revealing the detail would scupper the project?

In two of the North’s three waste disposal areas, plans for handling waste have collapsed. Arc21 - Antrim, Ards, Ballymena, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Down, Larne and Lisburn council areas - says it can’t go ahead without a £35 million subsidy to match what’s being bunged to the Derry operation. But the DoE reckons the two cases are different and has told Arc21 that if they have made a mess of their projections, they’ll have to sort it out themselves.

The Arc21 scheme won’t happen.

Neither will the plans of the South Waste Management Project (SWaMP) - Armagh, Banbridge, Cookstown, Craigavon, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Fermanagh, Newry, Mourne and Omagh - come to fruition. The sole remaining bidder has pulled out after claims that its composition had changed after it had been declared the only runner in the field.

The SWaMP project is dead.

Only the North West Region Waste Management Group (NWRWMG) - Ballymoney, Coleraine, Derry, Limavady, Magherafelt, Moyle and Strabane - continues in operation. Thus the prospect of lorry loads of waste trundling in from every direction all day every day is very real.

At a meeting of NWRWMG representatives in Coleraine a few weeks ago it was announced to the joy of all present that two outside councils have already agreed to dump their waste on Derry. Why was this meeting kept secret?

Well, it’s not secret any longer. Can the ratepayers of Derry now be told what the purpose of the gathering was and what was agreed?

In the background is the fact that it is proposed to build and run the Derry plant under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The private company has to be guaranteed a profit over the 25 years of the contract. But the NWRWMG doesn’t generate enough waste to make this possible.

This has been a major factor prompting the NWRWMG to plead with other councils to cut back on landfill by sending their rubbish to Maydown.

Why haven’t the people of the area been briefed on what’s intended to be plonked down on their doorsteps and asked for their opinion?

Why is all this happening behind the people’s backs?