Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lisburn City Council Planning Committee – trees, Lough Neagh incinerator and parking wardens

Lisburn City Council crest

It was a good night to randomly turn up at Lisburn City Council’s monthly planning committee meeting. There was a large turnout from Communities Against the Lough Neagh Incinerator (CALNI) who were updating the council on progress since their previous visit 12 months ago in October 2009.

But first the councillors (the full council attends the planning meeting) had to plough through page after page of planning applications/decisions, challenging the planning officer for meetings to discuss some cases, and deferrals for others to allow interested parties to bring new information to the planners.

For members of the public sitting in the public gallery – just behind the councillors – it’s a pretty bewildering process since there’s no paper work and at times sounds like a bunch of people order takeaway by yelling out numbers and acronyms.

In the midst of this, the councillors returned to an old subject - allegations that fishermen were pulling down and burning trees at the edge of the water at Stoneyford Reservoir – presumably in breach of their fishing licences.

Image (c) Michael High, accurately superimposing the planned RoseEnergy incinerator over Parliament Buildings at Stormont

Councillor Ronnie Crawford, the chair chairman of the planning committee, explained that the council had run out of process on the issue of the chicken litter incinerator.

Over the years, Lisburn City Council had mostly been in support of a public inquiry, but with the minister rejecting the need for an inquiry, he explained that tonight’s update from Danny Moore (the president of CALNI) would be noted rather than actioned.

Danny detailed some of the milestones in the incinerator campaign.

  • Back in November 2009, CALNI discovered through the result of a Freedom of Information request that Invest NI support (and in essence government support) for the project was more advanced that they’d thought. A bank or a VC would require planning permission to be in place before offering funds. So why should the same safeguards not be in place before committing public money?

  • Whereas Rose Energy have used biosecurity (eg, the lack of poultry flocks in the area) as a reason for locating the incinerator at Glenavy, CALNI’s work with the Chief Veterinary Officer has shown that there are in fact lots of flocks, including on a mere 300m away from the site, not to mention the migratory birds around the lough shore.

  • CALNI view the runway extension at Belfast City Airport as less contentious than the Glenavy incinerator. Yet a public inquiry for the runway extension was announced in April 2010, while on 31 August the DOE Minister announced that he was “minded” to approve the incinerator and wouldn’t wait for a inquiry. Despite media simplifications in stories about the incinerator, planning permission has still not been approved.

  • The next morning on 1 September, CALNI launched a Judicial Review of the DOE Minister’s intention to approve the incinerator.

  • The day after that, they heard of an application to open the Crumlin lignite site, fuelling an existing concern that the incinerator could easily be adapted to burn lignite. (Danny talks about the lignite problem in the video clip.)
  • Unconnected with CALNI’s health and environmental concerns, Irish poultry producers expressed concerns that financial support from Invest NI for Rose Energy would amount to state subsidy for NI poultry farmers. MEPs and the European Commission are now being briefed and lobbied.

  • Three hundred people turned up at a two and a half hour public meeting in Glenavy on 23 September which CALNI felt was an indication of the “depth and strength of feeling” about the issue.

  • CALNI were baffled that the Assembly debate on 27 September calling for a public inquiry for the incinerator was withdrawn at the last minute after the DUP submitted a petition of concern requiring a cross-community vote. When both Lagan Valley and South Antrim constituencies were dominated by the DUP, CALNI ask why the DUP chose to play the cross-community card?

  • The same day, CALNI were granted leave for their Judicial Review, with the hearing scheduled for February 2011.

  • For over a year, a (separate) Judicial Review has been running (wider than just the incinerator) to look at former DOE Minister Sammy Wilson’s statement on “economic benefit”. He stated that economic benefit should be given decisive weight in determining major planning applications. On 1 October, the High Court deemed the statement unlawful because of failure to follow proper procedures in creating new planning policy.

  • As a result, CALNI expect that the DOE Minister’s statement on 31 August about being “minded” to approve planning permission for the incinerator without a public inquiry on the basis of economic grounds is no longer valid.

The unspoken embarrassment for Lisburn City Council is that the DOE Minister in question is Edwin Poots, until recently a DUP councillor on Lisburn City Council. While the council were in favour of a public inquiry, one councillor – wearing a different ministerial hat – was pulling in the opposite direction.

The twenty or more CALNI supporters filed out of the council chamber while the councillors proceeded to Any Other Business.

Alderman Calvert (TUV) hadn’t quite thought through the repercussions of all day parking when he opined:

“How do we regenerate Lisburn? Get rid of traffic wardens so people don’t fear going back to their cars to find a ticket.”

Traffic wardens were accused of displaying zealotry behaviour while being put under pressure by their managers who monitored their performance from unmarked cars. There was a lack of common sense, with wardens touring areas at inappropriate times. The chair chairman quipped that “the fisherman follows the shoals”.

Then they moved onto parking meters, with the Mayor upset that if you paid for an on-street two hour parking ticket and then wanted to move your car you’d have to buy a new ticket, “paying for the same hour twice”.

(Image showing proposed RoseEnergy plant accurately superimposed over Parliament Buildings at Stormont used with permission and (c) Michael High.)

No comments: