A LOCAL authority is acting in an "arrogant" manner by removing Environment Minister John Gormley from the process involved in the building of a waste incinerator, waste operators claimed.
The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that Dublin City Council has applied for a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to buy 2.5 acres of land needed for the plant instead of waiting for Mr Gormley to grant a foreshore licence.
A foreshore licence is needed as part of permission to build any development on the coastline. A local authority does not require one if it owns the land.
In the dramatic move, the council has taken Mr Gormley out of the process because if the CPO is granted, a foreshore licence is not needed, despite continuing claims by campaigners that it is.
Mr Gormley is not allowed to comment on the CPO process because it is part of a regulatory process, but yesterday he insisted that, despite the CPO move, the incinerator would not go ahead.
He has repeatedly said that the plant is too big for the city's needs, especially as the volumes of waste being generated are falling. A new waste policy will be completed by the end of the year which will impose a tax on incineration and landfill to encourage recycling.
"I determine national policy, not Dublin City Council," he said. "How is national policy out of my hands?
"I have not been sidestepped on this issue. This debate is not about a foreshore licence but a change of policy. A facility of this size is impossible."
His comments came after a group representing private waste operators yesterday demanded a public hearing into the CPO process.
The Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA) accused the council of acting in an "arrogant and cavalier" manner.
Spokesman Brendan Keane said, "The minister . . . has clearly signalled that waste policy is changing.
"Dublin City Council continues to plough ahead with the construction of a grossly oversized incinerator.
"Interested parties should refer the matter to An Bord Pleanala to ensure that an oral hearing and appropriate assessment of the proposed acquisition can take place, in full and in public."
Dublin's assistant city manager Seamus Lyons said the council made the CPO after a request by its partner, US firm Covanta, because of delays in getting the foreshore licence.
It was applied for in August 2008 from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. Responsibility was transferred to the Department of the Environment last January, but the licence has not yet been issued.
Construction work on the €200m incinerator started last December but ground to halt in May because the foreshore licence had not been issued, Covanta claimed.
Covanta first raised concerns about the delay last month.
It is understood, meanwhile, that works could have continued without the licence, which is needed to complete a system to discharge water used to cool the plant.
The foreshore licence application has not been withdrawn and will run simultaneously with the CPO. If it is granted, the CPO will be withdrawn.
The IWMA will lodge a complaint with the European Commission next month in relation to the contract between the council and Covanta, which will build the incinerator.