Campaigners against a proposed Northern Ireland gasification plant have seized on a planning blunder to try to block the project.
The problem has arisen over the North West Region Waste Management Group’s combined gasification and mechanical and biological treatment plant at Maybrook, Northern Ireland.
A consortium of Shanks, local waste firm Brickkiln and builder Sisk was chosen as preferred bidder last December by the group, which is a partnership of seven councils.
The group said that it had planning permission to develop the MBT and gasification plant near Derry to handle 120,000 tonnes of waste annually.
But objectors now say the permission is invalid because the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DoENI) forgot to place a general notice in the local press advising people of its decision.
Raymond McCartney, a Northern Ireland assembly member for the area, said he wanted to know, “why the public was not informed of the planning approval for a major waste processing plant at Maydown”.
He added: “People have very genuine concerns about all this and it’s important that everyone has their voices heard, and that the pros and cons are explained, so everyone can have a considered view on the whole gasification process.”
A DoENI spokesperson said: “The planning application [was] processed in compliance with all requirements including advertisement and consultation with all interest groups.
“Once the decision was taken anyone who had made representations in respect of the application were notified of the decision taken in the normal manner.
“However for these types of application there is also an additional special requirement to place a general notice in the local press after the decision has been taken. Due to an administrative oversight this last action was not taken at the time. Action has now been taken to rectify this.”
The department said there was “no question of attempting to cover up the decision taken” and that the planning approval remained in place.
Meanwhile, provisional Northern Ireland Executive figures show the region’s lowest ever volume of landfilled waste was achieved in the October to December 2012 quarter.
The proportion of municipal waste sent to landfill dropped 3.6 percentage points, when compared with the same period in 2011, to 57.7%.
Household and municipal waste volumes sent for recycling and composting increased by 0.8 and 1.3 percentage points respectively to 36.6% and 36.0%.
Local authority collected waste decreased in volume by 1.0% against the last quarter of 2011 from 218,877 tonnes to 216,713 tonnes.
Environment minister Alex Attwood said: “I am implementing bold challenging new laws to enhance our clean and green credentials. People want to embrace measures to reduce waste and address climate change. The carrier bag levy, recycling and less waste to landfill drive it.”