Cambridgeshire County Council votes to oppose Wisbech “mega incinerator”
PUBLISHED: 16:43 21 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:10 21 July 2020
Members of Cambridgeshire County Council have voted overwhelmingly to oppose plans for a “mega incinerator” in Wisbech.
MVV Environment Ltd is proposing to build an energy from waste combined heat and power facility in Algores Way, in the Medworth ward of Wisbech.
The company says the £300million incinerator would create 700 jobs and make electricity by burning non-recycled waste that would otherwise go to landfill.
The company has said the incinerator’s chimney would likely be around 95 metres high.
Ultimately the decision on whether or not the incinerator is approved for construction will be taken by the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, currently Alok Sharma MP.
But in a motion passed by Cambridgeshire County Council on Tuesday (July 21), councillors said they do not support the construction of an incinerator in Wisbech, and vowed to fight the plans.
“We will use all legal powers and avenues available to us to oppose any plans to build any incinerators in Wisbech,” the motion said, as well as committing to writing to the secretary of sate “to make clear our opposition to these plans”.
The proposal would be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, and so cannot be determined by councils through the usual planning process, and instead MVV will need to apply for a development consent order.
That application was due to be made in the fourth quarter of this year, but MVV now says that, owing to the pandemic, this has been put on hold for a year, with the application now expected to be submitted by the fourth quarter of 2021.
The county council website says such applications normally take around 16 months to decide, and MVV’s website says it would likely take around three years to construct the incinerator, putting any opening date, should the project go ahead, at around 2026 at the earliest.
The motion against the Wisbech incinerator was brought to the council by the councillor for the area, Wisbech west, Conservative Steve Tierney.
Cllr Tierney said Wisbech councillors are united in their opposition against the incinerator.
Arguing against the incinerator on environmental grounds, Cllr Tierney said: “People of all persuasions can plainly see that an incinerator like this is not the solution we seek. If anything it is a dangerous distraction from our search for solutions that are environmentally sound and sustainable.”
Cllr Tierney said: “The people of Wisbech have told me very clearly that they don’t want it.”
And he appealed for cross-county support. “If the threat of a mega-incinerator were to appear anywhere in this county, I suspect any one of you might be putting in a motion just like this to the council, and in that instance you would have my support,” he said.
He described incinerators like the one proposed as “monstrosities”.
The motion argued such incinerators produce emissions, can be wasteful, may reduce recycling, and that the location may affect possible routes for Wisbech rail.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group on the council, Lucy Nethsingha, supported the motion, but warned against political interference in the legal planning process.
“The council must not be seen to be acting politically in a planning matter,” she said.
But she added in terms of the particular circumstances in Wisbech at the current time, that her group believes there is already capacity for incineration in Peterborough and that “the needs of the environment would be better served by increasing the recycling capacity in the whole area”.
Another councillor for the Wisbech area, Simon King, said there is “huge concern about the health impacts of this incinerator in the local area”.
He said: “I just don’t see that there is justification for citing this very large incinerator so close to a population centre. I think it is unnecessary and certainly not wanted.”
Councillor for Wisbech East, Samantha Hoy, said: “We don’t want this monolith in our town.
“Our town already suffers from deprivation as it is, and I don’t want it to be a physical dumping ground for other counties, and actually possibly other countries’ waste.”
She added: “This is not just an ordinary incinerator but a mega-incinerator which will be bigger than Ely Cathedral, and there is no way that this will not be a blot on the fen landscape.”
She accused the company proposing the incinerator of “underhand tactics” saying “I don’t feel they have acted openly and transparently along the way”.
She also said the project puts Wisbech rail “at severe threat”.
Certain councillors, including those on the planning committee and their substitutes, were not able to participate in the debate to avoid issues of pre-determination should a different version of the proposal or a similar proposal come to the planning committee in future.
The council voted in favour of the motion, with 35 councillors voting for, and one councillor, Labour’s Joan Whitehead who represents the Abbey ward in Cambridge city, abstaining.
Fenland District Council has passed a similar motion, and the proposed incinerator is also opposed by the member of parliament for North East Cambridgeshire, Conservative Steve Barclay.
If the planning process goes ahead, the application will be subject to a public examination of the arguments for and against by the government’s planning inspectorate, before determination by the government.
Although no application has yet been submitted for permission to build the incinerator, the government has responded to a request for a scoping report, which advises the applicant on the scope and level of detail that will need to be provided in the application’s environmental statement.
MVV has said it intends to carry out a second round of non-statutory consultation, including public exhibitions, later this year, before the statutory consultation expected in early 2021.
The company has argued there is a need for the incinerator, saying it avoids transporting waste overseas, and that it will “recover useful, sustainable, energy from residual municipal waste” and avoid it being sent to landfill.
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