Illegal waste probe at councillor’s new lane

ENVIRONMENTAL crime officers have conducted an investigation on property owned by Islandmagee councillor John Mathews.

Larne Borough Council has also received a report after inert waste was discovered in rubble used as infill for a new lane near Cllr Mathews’s Gobbins Road home.

The former mayor has said he had no knowledge the waste was on the site.

Cllr Mathews added that the material – which included wood, metal and plastic – had been used by a contractor employed by him. He added that he was “upset” that it had happened and that the illegal filling had been removed.

The Larne Times understands that two officers from the environmental crime unit attached to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency visited the site last Thursday and ordered the removal of the waste. A spokesperson for the agency declined to comment on the detail. “As the investigation is ongoing, it is not possible for us to comment any further,” she added.

Environmental services director Philip Thompson delivered a report in confidential session at the end of Larne Council’s monthly meeting on Monday night. The Larne Times understands that Cllr Mathews offered an explanation to colleagues.

Later, Cllr Mathews – who has represented Larne Council on the waste management body Arc 21 – told the Larne Times: “I believe that I have done nothing wrong.”

He said he had employed a contractor to build the lane using quarry stone, adding that he had been unaware that waste had been used until the arrival of the NIEA officials.

“I had no knowledge of it being on the site and the contractor who put the stuff in said he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong,” said the Alliance representative.

“I was very upset when the officers from the environment agency told me what happened and I am actually pleased that people pointed this out and that it was possible to nip it in the bud.”

Cllr Mathews stressed that none of the illegal material was toxic. “It was things like wood, metal and plastic which should have gone for recycling,” he added.

“All the material that had wrongly been put on the site has now been removed and if there is anything else that needs putting right, I will see to it that it is done,” said the Larne Lough councillor.

Contractor Ossie Cross also told the Larne Times that Cllr Mathews had not been aware of the inert waste being used on the job. He added: “I brought material on to the site which was not acceptable to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. They asked me to remove it and I have removed it.”