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Environmental group stalls power station extension

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An environmental campaign group has stalled a planning application for an extension to Kilroot power station.

Friends of the Earth wrote to the Department for Infrastructure objecting to the application made to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The environmental group said it was likely to be in breach of the Climate Change Act.

However, the power station's solicitor said the allegations "lacked any evidential basis".

Last year, Stormont committed to achieving a net zero emissions target by 2050.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has served a direction on council advising that when it reached a recommendation on the application, the DfI must be notified.

This means that the council cannot issue any planning decisions before the department has decided whether or not to "call in the application" to be examined.

In 2020, it was announced the power station near Carrickfergus in County Antrim would be converted from coal fired to gas fired.

In a letter to the DfI in February, Friends of the Earth recommended that the planning application be "called in" by the department.

In reference to figures cited in the planning application's environmental statement, they said that "the emissions from gas are most likely underestimated" and the "proposed extensions are likely to be in breach of the Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022".

In response to the council, solicitors acting for Kilroot said: "Allegations that the environmental statements for these two proposals underestimate greenhouse gas emissions thereby compromising Northern Ireland's ability to reach net zero by 2050 lacks any evidential basis".

It added that "submitted documentation demonstrates that a robust and comprehensive assessment has been undertaken".

James Orr, the director of Northern Ireland Friends of the Earth, said investing in the project takes us beyond 2050 and the climate change targets.

He said it made "no economic sense" and it would be an "act of environmental vandalism".

Prof Aoife Foley, a Queen's University academic, said: "Anybody who says we won't need that infrastructure as we transition...really they have no experience of the real world and how industry works and how the public sector works."

A decision on the planning application is expected next month.