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Calls to withdraw interconnector planning approval following Belfast incinerator decision

North South Interconnector

Calls have been made to withdraw planning approval for the north/south interconnector following the outcome of a judicial review on the decision to grant planning approval to the Hightown Incinerator in north Belfast.

Planning permission for the £240m facility was approved by a Department for Infrastructure civil servant in September 2017, however, the plans had received more than 4,000 letters of objection.

Politicians argued that it was not the civil servant’s decision to take and on Monday the High Court ruled the senior civil servant, Peter May, had no power to approve the planning application.

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty claimed this decision calls into serious doubt the planning approval for the north/south interconnector.

“The decision by the High Court is a victory for common sense and for democratic accountability,” he said.

“No civil servant, no matter how high his or her rank should take decisions which are the responsibility of ministers.

“It’s a shame and disgrace we have no working Assembly and no accountable ministers but that shouldn’t facilitate major contentious decisions being made by the civil service.

“Monday’s decision is right and has to be welcomed.”

Mr McNulty said the consequences of the decision are “far reaching”.

“The knock-on from this decision must now mean the withdrawal of planning approval for the north/south interconnector.

“It too has seen large scale objections, it was highly controversial, and the same senior civil servant took the decision to approve it, in the absence of a Minister and Assembly.”

He added: “Even though the announcement has just been made, I have already written to the head of the civil service and the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

“They need to give urgent clarity on this important matter and the planning approval must be withdrawn immediately.”

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