Consulted and ignored: council takes legal action over incinerator

Extract from Times article by John Simpson – 9th April 2012

Millionaires and local activists have joined forces across Britain to
fight proposals for scores of huge incinerators that have ignited a new
planning row with the Government.

The building of energy from waste (EfW) plants, some of them capable of
burning up to 90 lorry-loads of rubbish a day, has set councils against
each other and drawn ministers into parish conflicts.

Parents and pressure groups have allied themselves to, among others, a
pop star and television presenter in the fight against the incinerators,
which are designed to reduce the need for landfill but have been
criticised for their “devastating” presence in local environments.

There are 30 EfW incinerators in the UK and 80 more are believed to be

The skirmishes highlight the conflict between two of the Government’s
key policy objectives — the move away from landfill for household and
commercial waste and localism, the process of allowing decisions to be
taken at the nearest point to the people affected.

In Hatfield, Hertfordshire, a school for 66 pupils with learning
difficulties is to be moved temporarily from its site next to where a
£220 million incinerator is planned — an act that campaigners claim is
a cynical move to ensure that the project goes ahead.

John Dean, the leader of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, who has made
clear his opposition to Hertfordshire County Council’s decision to allow
the incinerator, said: “The special needs of the pupils at that school
have always been a major consideration for the borough and if ever the
children are to come back to that site it would be very difficult for them.

“The county are going to have to take the localism law issue into
account. There’s a very strong opposition to this locally.”

Alesha Dixon, the/Britain’s Got Talent/judge, was born in nearby Welwyn
and joined the campaign in January. Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister
and local Conservative MP, is a vocal opponent.

Incinerators are viewed as an affordable way to rid communities of waste
over the coming decades. A tax is levied on local authorities according
to how much they send to landfill and it is estimated that they will
face bills of over a billion pounds next year alone.

The Government is keen to meet EU targets on the amount of energy
created from waste. Last month Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local
Government Secretary, won a high court battle to grant permission to the
waste firm Sita for a £117 million incinerator in St Dennis, Cornwall.

Ministers now face a further battle in the courts, this time against the
Conservative council in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, where one of the most
entrenched protests has caused a falling out between the borough and its
county superior.

The same picture is painted from Cornwall to the Highlands. In
Invergordon, Ross and Cromarty, a £43 million plant is planned within
sight of the grounds of the castle at Balnagown. Mohamed Al Fayed was so
taken with the castle in the 1970s that he bought it a week after laying
eyes on it.

The former Harrods owner is incensed and has joined the protest to halt
what he calls a “potentially ruinous rubbish-burning incinerator on the
banks of the beautiful Cromarty Firth.

“It would be absolutely devastating to build an incinerator in such a
beautiful and tranquil area, which is also a popular tourist spot,” he
said after a public meeting last month. “The local people do not deserve
this and the [Scottish] First Minister, Alex Salmond, has made the wrong
decision in supporting this application.”

A decision was taken later to hold a public local inquiry into the
plans. All of these schemes, though, are dwarfed by the projects being
proposed by waste and energy companies in tens of locations elsewhere.

Julian Kirby, chief waste campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s another great example of the big
society — an energetic community that recycles and reuses [but] is
being dumped on by central government and the county council.”

A source close to Mr Pickles said: “These are local matters dealt with
on a case-by-case basis.” His department declined to comment further.

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