‘We aren’t happy’ Wisbech councillor tells committee what community feels about £300m mega incinerator for the town
- Credit: Archant
County councillors were told planning law prevents them opposing the £300m energy from waste incinerator proposed for Wisbech.
Emma Finch, an assistant director at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “The role of the county planning authority is not to pass judgement on the merits or otherwise of the application”. She said the county council’s role was limited to scrutinising the application, offering technical advice as part of the consultation process ensuring the public is properly consulted.
The mega incinerator – with a chimney up to a massive 95 metres high (to put this in context Ely Cathedral spire is 66 metres) - is of scale to categorise it as a national infrastructure project which means decision making is automatically passed to the Government.
A report on the incinerator’s progress through the planning stages was presented to the county council environment and sustainability committee.
Wisbech councillor Sam Hoy, although not a member of the committee, was invited to speak.
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She said: “I understand it isn’t possible to comment on the specifics of it [the application] but I would still like to place on record that we aren’t happy.
“It isn’t a small-scale incinerator but a mega incinerator which will end up having to ship waste in from abroad to keep it going.”
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She added: “The company themselves is already saying there will be at least 300 lorry movements a day, the common effects on this alone is immense.
“There is also evidence on both sides on the effect it has on air quality. Furthermore, the building will blighter the landscape on an historic Georgian market town.”
She also spoke about the incinerator site being at proposed location of the Wisbech railway station.
County councillors were told that the cost “to the public purse” of scrutinising the application would be immense.
Ms Finch said if the application proceeds to the next stage it would put pressure on the “already stretched” county planning team.
Consultants are being sourced to advice the council on key aspects of the scheme.
She reminded councillors that planning law says councils should “engage proactively with a developer even if they disagree with the proposal in principle”; there was a role for engaging. Ultimately the fate of the mega incinerator project rests with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma but there’s a long process before then.
Although Coronavirus may delay it, MVV Environment Ltd hope to move to the next stage of their application by the end of the year. If it passes that stage the minister could invite a panel of five examining inspectors to conduct a public hearing.
Campaigners continue to say the public consultation has been inadequate as the initial phase was held throughout the coronavirus lockdown.
It meant that all public events that had been organised to present the plans had to be postponed and many locations holding official documents about the proposals were closed.
According to its website, MVV aims to launch its second phase after restrictions have been lifted.
It says: “Additional feedback can be given during this second period and will also be included, along with responses, in the Feedback Report.”
The proposed site is 750 metres from Thomas Clarkson Academy and 350 metres from The Eye Clinic.
Developers say there will be “no smell” from the plant and it will create around 700 jobs while under construction, and then 40 full-time posts once it is up and running.
Generating over 50 megawatts2, the electricity is proposed to be sent to the grid or to major industries in the area, offering them alternative energy supplies, subject to approval.
Steam is also proposed to be available by MVV, allowing potential users the option to switch off their fossil fuelled boilers.
The proposed facility is being designed by MVV to recover energy in the form of electricity and steam from over half a million tonnes of non-recyclable (residual) municipal waste each year. Urging people to write to MP Steve Barclay, Ginny Bucknor, one of the campaign organisers against the incinerator, said:“What we need is a co-ordinated approach with the surrounding MPs to a meeting with the Secretary of State so this mega Incinerator is squashed now before it goes to the next stage.”