Posted on Monday 11 June 2018 by John Mulgrew
Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of major infrastructure schemes – including a £280m power station – are being placed on hold until the restoration of devolution or a return to direct rule, it can be revealed.
It’s understood, following a High Court decision to overturn the green light for the Arc 21 incinerator – which was first approved without a minister in place – while civil servants across Stormont departments are continuing to process major schemes and planning applications, developers are being told that they cannot sign them off due to the long-running deadlock.
Those schemes include Belfast Power’s £280m gas-powered station in Belfast and a massive proposed gold mine by Dalradian, in Co Tyrone.
One of the co-founders of the power station, has previously said that if approved, it could power up to 50% of Northern Ireland's homes and businesses. The new power station will take around two-and-a-half years to construct.
It’s thought the original timeframe for the station could see it up for a decision in July. But that date now looks like it will be pushed back considerably.
There are concerns that the delay, and timing of the build, could now impact on future electricity generation capacity in Northern Ireland.
Other schemes being held up include roads projects, such as the A5 upgrade. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for 16 months.
It’s understood some business leaders, while preferring a return to a devolved government, have asked Secretary of State Karen Bradley to appoint ministers in London in order to make key decisions here.
Pressure has been mounting on Westminster to take control in Northern Ireland as Stormont's top civil servant said it was unclear what decisions departments here can make without ministers.
Last month, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) announced it was appealing a High Court decision that its permanent secretary Peter May had no power to give the go-ahead to the Arc 21 incinerator project in Mallusk.
The High Court ruling threw doubt on the authority of senior civil servants to take decisions that would normally be the responsibility of ministers.
During an Institute of Directors (IoD) event, Karen Bradley was grilled by business executives about her plans to fill the power vacuum at Stormont.