Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Recycling firm allays fears over Newtown storage plans

By Diarmúid Pepper

Residents of Newtownhamilton have hit out at proposals to create a wastage storage on the Newry Road. 

A concerned resident contacted The Examiner claiming that “the people of Newtownhamilton once again are faced with another battle that threatens their community”.

The site was previously used as a landfill and local Councillor Barra Ó Muirí said “the site has been a bone of contention for the residents for many years”. 

In a statement, he elaborated on the history of the area: “Originally a peat bog, it turned into an unregulated dump before being shut down in the late 1990s. Since then, the site has lain untouched.  In 2015, the Council planned to erect a Wind Turbine on the site, but planning was withdrawn due to public outcry, along with the prospect of decontaminating the 7-acre site.

“Earlier this summer, I and several other Slieve Gullion Councillors met with representatives from Re-Gen, who showed us plans to use the Amenity Site, which is enclosed by a wall to store a few bales. This subsequently developed into a proposal to lease the full 7 acres as a storage facility for bales of waste from all over Ulster, something the people of Newtown just don’t want.”

The Examiner was contacted by a local who said that residents here “had major concerns over property value, future residential planning permission and the future agricultural and environmental effects” should Re-Gen’s proposal go ahead.

The letter also stated that residents feel “they are unsupported and forgotten about” and added: “As a community, Newtownhamilton stand together against this recent development and ask those in a position of power to finally listen to the voice of the people who wish to protect Newtownhamilton and its area of natural beauty.”

Re-Gen held a public information meeting in the town on Wednesday last, however the concerned resident expressed “disappointment” that there were no representatives from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council at the event.

When contacted no one from the Council was available for comment, but a Re-Gen spokesperson said that while the Council may be involved down the line, “there was no requirement or reason for the Council to be there at this moment in time”. 

The Re-Gen spokesperson said that an invitation had been sent out for residents to come and hear a presentation about Re-Gen’s proposals. 

The spokesperson also said that while some individuals came to the meeting with concerns, the meeting allowed Re-Gen to “act as openly and as transparently as possible and to act in good faith towards the local community”. 

The spokesperson continued: “We understand that there will be people who will have concerns but Re-Gen is a family owned company and we act with integrity. So what we are doing at this point of time is feeling the ground and seeing what people think.

“They are just concept plans at the moment. That is as far as it has gone. There is due to be another meeting next week and we will take on board how people think and feel as regards these plans.”

The Re-Gen spokesperson acknowledged that people may have concerns about “activity in their area” and said that what Re-Gen is proposing is a “storage facility”. 

The purpose and operation of the storage facility was explained to The Examiner as follows: “Re-Gen recycle mixed dry recyclables, like plastic, glass, paper, which is then baled up and sold to companies to get a second use out of. We also do non-recyclable waste, but anything that we cannot recycle and that would otherwise go to a landfill, it is re-baled and transported to Switzerland.  There, it is incinerated and is used as alternatives to coal and oil. So that waste is diverted from landfills and used as fuel alternatives instead.

“The bale is like a silage bale but a lot smaller. Farmers follow environmental laws which require them to wrap their bales three times and that is then impermeable. But Re-Gen wrap our bales up to ten times.  These bales would be stored on the facility we have proposed for a short period of time before being shipped to other places, which allows us to divert waste from landfills. We believe this is a good way forward because we are trying to stop things from going to landfills.” 

The Re-Gen spokesperson said that while residents may be apprehensive towards having this site near them, “Re-Gen is part of one of the most regulated industries there is”. 

She continued: “We have been in business a long time and we not only follow but exceed every regulation. We are one of the top in Europe so all our technology is cutting-edge and we respect the local community and provide a lot of employment in the community. 

“Anything that we do, we do with the utmost integrity and we exceed European regulations and be as open and transparent as we can.”