A leading solid fuel supplier – which has secured a new base in Larne – has spoken out against plans for a ban on the sale of domestic house coal.
Scottish coal and smokeless fuel supplier Fergusson Group is driving to build on its presence across the Irish house coal market, and its agreement to open a new facility at Larne Harbour represents a major strategic step for the company.
But the firm has expressed concerns regarding a proposed blanket ban on the sale of domestic coal in the Republic of Ireland,
Phil Hogan TD, Ireland’s former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, has previously spoken of his desire to see a ban on smoky coal throughout the country. A total of 27 towns and cities in the Republic have already banned the fuel.
And John Campbell of Fergusson Group, is worried this policy, if adopted, could also be implemented in Northern Ireland. A joint North-South study has already been undertaken on all-island air quality, examining air pollution from residential solid fuel, in particular smoky coal.
Mr Campbell paid a visit to Larne Borough Council’s latest monthly meeting to put his fears to local elected representatives, and asked them to support his company’s campaign against the proposed ban.
Mr Campbell told members: “Coal is the most affordable way to heat a home, and Northern Ireland has the highest fuel poverty rate in the UK at over 40 per cent. Our bottom line is we are bringing more competition to Northern Ireland.”
Cllr Bobby McKee said: “There is a need for fossil fuel coal by those on low income, as they can’t afford to pay £500 to fill an oil tank. But the problem with fossil fuels is the emissions.”
Mr Campbell responded: “In densely populated areas, fossil fuels create problems, but we are far from convinced that is the case in rural areas.
“We are not advocating that every home in Northern Ireland should use coal, we are advocating customer choice.
“We are responding to what our customers want; low cost and quality coal.”
Ald Roy Beggs said the council was “committed to retaining choice” for local people and asked how members could support Fergusson’s campaign.
Mr Campbell concluded: “There needs to be cross-party support to make it clear that this is not in the best interests of Northern Ireland. The support of Larne Council would be much appreciated, as this is the port where our coal comes into Northern Ireland.”
Mayor of Larne, Cllr Martin Wilson, said the council would consider Fergusson’s request “in due course”.