The health secretary Steve Barclay has accused the applicant behind the Wisbech incinerator of using “poor” and “shaky” data to argue there is a need for the facility.  

The MP for North East Cambridgeshire was representing his constituents when he spoke against the proposals at the final session of a public hearing into the scheme today (February 23). 

He queried the data used to assess the need for the scheme, the lack of consideration for alternative technologies that could be used and the analysis of the potential climate change impact.  

Mr Barclay also called for “greater clarity” on the air quality modelling used to support the application.  

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In his opening argument to Andre Pinto, the government-appointed planning inspector assessing the scheme, he said he knew the applicant's report into the waste fuel market was being updated.  

He said the reliability of the information linked to commercial and industrial waste in England was "shaky". 

Speaking on the issue of air quality, Mr Barclay said: “There needs to be much greater clarity on what the air quality modelling assumes in respect of emissions from the incinerator given the nature of the abatement equipment described in the application. 

“I would’ve expected this facility to have demonstrated a much more responsible approach to reduce emissions of air pollutants through consideration of alternative abatement techniques... 

“... And it would be useful, sir, to understand why the applicant has not opted for selected catalytic reduction as opposed to non-catalytic.”  

The Wisbech incinerator proposals

Wisbech Standard:

Paul Carey, the managing director of MVV Environment, the company behind the proposals, later told the hearing the incinerator application is aligned with government requirements. 

“These proposals are entirely consistent with [Mr Barclay’s] government policies,” he explained.  

His company MVV Environment wants to build the incinerator – known as the ‘Medworth Energy from Waste Combined Heat and Power Facility’ - on land off the Algores Way Industrial Estate.  

The firm says the site would divert more than half a million tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill a year, generating more than 50 megawatts of electricity.  

It would also have the capability to export steam and electricity to heat local factories. 

If given the go-ahead, the scheme’s two chimneys would be taller than Ely Cathedral.  

Mr Carey previously said the facility would create jobs, opportunities for students and enhance the local economy.  

Concerns raised at the meeting

Wisbech Standard:

As a nationally significant infrastructure project, the application is considered by the government planning inspectorate.  

Mr Barclay’s appearance kicked off the final session of a public hearing which has been taking place at the Boathouse Business Centre, in Wisbech, since Tuesday (February 21).  

Businesses, residents, community representatives and anti-incinerator campaigners were among those who also participated.   

There were around 15 speakers. All were against the proposals. 

Some who were passionate about the issue were given special permission to address Mr Pinto for a second time to cover points they were previously unable to raise.  

Their concerns ranged from the environmental impact, the increase in traffic generated, flood risk as the proposed site is on flood plain and the impact the development would have on the town’s heritage. 

Food growers also spoke to the inspector, worried about the effect the plant could have on the quality of their produce.  

'People are not being given the detail or truth'

Wisbech Standard:

Leverington resident Val MacRae gave an impassioned, unscripted speech from the heart, describing the scheme as a ‘monstrosity’.  

She said: “People are not being given the detail or truth about what is being proposed.  

“We have not even seen a scale model of the development. 

“People of this town understand the impact of this facility... and it will dominate the skyline for miles.” 

She added: “This monstrosity will never, never be built in this town.”  

Those who spoke at the meeting now have until March 11 to supply their written submissions to the planning inspectorate.  

The next stage of public hearings related to the application will be held in the spring.