Rose Energy, the company behind plans for the County Antrim plant, says it is the best way to dispose of chicken bedding, meat and bone meal and will provide almost a third of the province’s renewable energy.

Environment minister, Edwin Poots, said: “The power plant facility will create in the region of 300-400 construction jobs and approximately 30 permanent jobs in the operation of the facility once constructed.

“It will also have indirect employment and investment benefits in connection with Belfast Port and the haulage industry in Northern Ireland.

“I am fully aware of both the opposition and support for the power plant, and that I have a judgement to make between the benefits of the proposal to the poultry industry and the Northern Ireland economy and the potential adverse impacts on residential amenity and the landscape setting.

“Having given the proposal careful consideration, including visiting the site and viewing it from Lough Neagh, I am satisfied that on balance it should be approved.

“This type of investment is necessary to further stimulate the local economy, something the Executive is striving to secure. It is an example of investment that can contribute in many ways, providing long-term work, generating power, supporting local agriculture, and related industries.”

The plant will produce about 30MW of electricity from incineration. But opponents of the plans argue there are better alternatives both environmentally and economically.

Opposition campaign group Communities Against the Lough Neagh Incinerator (CALNI) has called the approval “one of the worst planning decisions ever made in Northern Ireland”

It wants a public inquiry into the decision and posted notice of a long battle head.

Group president Danny Moore said: “CALNI has consistently warned Minister Poots and Rose Energy that if they chose to pursue this incinerator proposal at Glenavy, CALNI would fight them every step of the way, for years if necessary, all the way to the European Court of Justice

“Thus CALNI is announcing today its intention to launch legal proceedings against the Minister’s Department to challenge this decision.

“We have retained barristers, planning and environmental lawyers and legal action will be initiated within days.

“The minister’s decision does not mark the end of this process, but only the end of the beginning.”

David Gibbs

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