Waste firm says 80 jobs under threat after shutdown

alex attwood
Image caption Mr Attwood said the investigation had also uncovered a large amount of illegal waste

A waste company connected to a criminal investigation into illegal waste has said 80 jobs are under threat after it was shut down on Wednesday.

Eglinton-based City Waste had its licence revoked by Environment Minister Alex Attwood.

The firm accused Mr Attwood of pulling the licence because it had opposed the payment of millions of pounds towards building a new waste treatment plant.

That claim has been denied by the Department of the Environment.

Mr Attwood said the investigation had uncovered a large amount of illegal waste found buried under soil and clay in land around the Mobuoy area near Maydown. But the Department of the Environment later stated that there was no suggestion that find is linked to City Waste.

"This has been painstaking work with the aim of maximising the chances of dealing a big blow to serious criminality and a big blow to environmental vandalism," he said.

City Waste later issued a statement that said it was resolving three technical breaches of the planning laws.

"At no time were we implicated in what the minister describes as criminality or environmental vandalism. We note that DoE has corrected their earlier statement to this effect," the statement said.

"The company has operated successfully for the last nine years in close co-operation with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

"Our company, which received an all-clear NIEA inspection in April is horrified to have received this notice in absence of any consultation or prior notification from the department."

'Hard evidence'

City Waste maintains the loss of its licence is down to its legal objection to Alex Attwood's injection of £35m into the process of the appointment of a contractor to build and manage a waste treatment plant proposed for the north west.

"Without the £35m, the procurement process was in danger of collapsing. The only obstacle between the appointment of the preferred bidder was our company's legal challenge," the company said.

"A group of independents has lobbied for the last two years against current waste plans arguing that they will lock ratepayers into 25-year contracts with energy from waste plants which will compete for dwindling waste resources. This... is a major disincentive for recycling and recovery of waste.

"A second waste authority, SWaMP, has now pulled out of its multi-million pound procurement with the hugely drawn-out and seemingly flawed procurement processes constantly missing deadlines and costing the DoE millions of pounds."

The DoE said the actions on Wednesday followed a long and "unprecedented" investigation over a number of months.

"The DoE interventions were based on hard evidence. The DoE will continue with its investigations, and will leave no stone unturned in identifying any and all who have been involved in waste offences and environmental crime," it said.

"The DoE shall be fearless in this approach. It is the evidence of waste offending and criminality that is the reason and only reason for the investigation and the actions taken yesterday. Any claim to the contrary is plainly wrong and people will see any such claim for what it is." .