1 March 2016
Developer Gent Fairhead can now incinerate 65% more waste – but will recycle much less
On Friday 26th February 2016 Essex County Council granted planning permission to Gent Fairhead for the latest changes to the proposed major waste plant at Rivenhall Airfield.
Braintree District Council, hundreds of local residents and almost all the local parish and town councils in the area objected.
Waste development was first proposed at the site over 20 years ago. For the last decade, a succession of plans and amendments have been submitted for a major waste plant, progressively increasing the capacity of the plant and moving it towards waste incineration and away from recycling.
Campaigners were dubbed “political scaremongers” by the former Leader of ECC, Lord Hanningfield for saying that the Rivenhall site would host a massive incinerator – yet that is exactly what is now proposed. If built the plant could burn over 1,600 tonnes of waste per day. All of it would come in by HGV, including the option to import from outside Essex.
Taken together with the adjacent quarry, HGV movements on to the A120 at Bradwell, and likely also along local roads, could be up to 1,000 a day – thats a lorry movement every minute or so.
The latest plans granted by Essex County Council are for a Section 73 “variation” application which it is claimed is a “minor” change to the plans.
However far from being minor, the Essex County Council web page for the application has a staggering 370 documents listed amounting to many thousands of pages.
The S73 application includes the stated aim of increasing the incinerator capacity of the facility from 360,000 tonnes per annum to 595,000 tpa and greatly decreasing all forms of recycling including paper recycling and food waste composting. The total input capacity of the facility is proposed to be 863,700 tpa. To put this in context, this is equivalent to more than all the household waste (both recycling and black bin waste) put out by all the households in the county.
The proposed Rivenhall site would handle commercial and industrial waste as a major part of its inputs.
Taken together all of the proposed changes in the S73 application would mean that the recycling rate as a percentage of total inputs would fall from 35% in the consented plant to just 19% in the S73 version of the plant. Campaigners believe that this moves the plant “down the waste hierarchy”, contrary to national policies.
The S73 application also removes previously agreed planning drawings from the consent, some being replaced with “indicative” drawings. The applicant states that he intends to substitute back in the missing and final plans “at a later date”, yet also states he intends to start building within days.
Essex County Council states that it has taken legal advice on the status of the S73 application. But ECC has refused all requests from local councillors and residents to let them see the opinion on which it based the decision to accept the S73 application as a minor “variation”.
The latest planning changes also propose (document entitled “Forseeable Developments” (Jan 2016)) that
“The River Blackwater would be the primary source for industrial water use at the site” – to include both greater water abstraction and discharge of treated effluent – which has never been suggested before by the applicants. As well as concerns over impacts on the ecology of the river, the Blackwater is used to feed drinking water to reservoirs in Essex.
The Inspector to the 2009 Inquiry concluded in his Report to the Secretary of State that use of water from outside the plant would be "minimal" as he had been told by Gent Fairhead that water would be derived largely from storage lagoons, internal recycling and rainwater. This is yet another commitment from the developers that looks to be changing.
Green Party County and District Councillor James Abbott, said:
Councillor James Abbott
“The decision today was entirely predictable. It would be interesting to know what Gent Fairhead would have to submit to ECC in terms of changes that they would actually say no to him.
We believe that whilst the applicant now has his so called “variation” consent, further changes are still likely. Before he can operate the plant he needs a facility Permit and if river is to be used much more intensively, a new water licence, both from the Environment Agency. These would take many months to finalise, and could be refused.
We also know that he intends to substitute back in to the permission yet more new plans for the ones the “variation” application has deleted.
Major waste sites such as this should have all their planning and permitting completed before a spade is stuck in the ground. Indeed that is what the Inspector to the Inquiry in 2009 was requiring when he and the Secretary of State gave Gent Fairhead planning permission for 5 years in 2010. In reality Gent Fairhead has now had 6 years and he still has not complied with those requirements. How can such a major development be commenced when so many important details are unknown ?
Uncertainties over water use and the final processing functions of the plant can be added to uncertainty over emissions and the stack height, which cannot be known until the permitting process is completed. Gent Fairhead has said throughout that his plant only needs a 35m high chimney stack. Is that another pledge that will be broken ?
We remain of the view that a fresh and independent public inquiry would allow all these matters to be aired in the open; and for all concerned to be able to exercise their right to see the actual final plans from Gent Fairhead instead of what is now blatant “planning creep”.”
For further information:
Cllr. James Abbott
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