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Last chance! “Time for Wiltshire Council to stand up for Westbury and reject waste plant”

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Westbury has until Tuesday 22nd September to make its views known about the latest plans for an  ‘energy from waste’ incinerator to be built in the town. 

Town councillors have unanimously recommended rejection of the plans and Westbury MP Andrew Murrison is urging local residents to write urgently to Wiltshire Council to object to the plans before next week’s deadline.

At an extraordinary meeting of the town council’s highways planning & development committee held last Monday, members voted in favour of cllr Gordon King’s draft proposal to object to Northacre Renewable Energy’s (NREL’s) revised application. A previous application was for a gasification plant – described as a greener option than the traditional ‘energy from waste’ model.

Councillors will now review their draft comments at the next HP&D meeting, which will be held on Monday 21st September. The final agreed version will then be submitted to Wiltshire Council before the deadline the following day. 

As the local planning authority, it is Wiltshire Council who will decide if the waste incinerator can go ahead.

The councillors’ draft objection was made on the following points:-

• Insufficient time to pursue, take in or evaluate 237 statements and documents 

• Failure to provide a Biodiversity & Geodiversity site analysis 

• Failure  to provide detail of the technology and  impact analysis 

• Refused to provide precise detail of where they will source waste by; type, quality, composition, transport arrangements 

• Failure to take into account increased traffic

• Failure to take sufficient account of impact on air quality

• Failure to assess impact of noise, especially at night.

• Consideration of the lifetime of this plant 

• Wiltshire Council has declared a climate emergency and should be reminded of their commitment.

(Full information on each point is given below.)

Councillors agreed, “In conclusion, this council recommends: “The applicant, by their over reliance on old, pre-Covid data has made a series of assertions and conclusions that are based entirely on assumptions. By doing that, they have failed to provide any report or assessment that comes close to adequately providing either a reasonable or accurate assessment of the Impacts of their development.”

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Speaking during the public session of the town council meeting, Nadia Evans said the application was different from the first which was approved in July – with the new plant being larger and producing more residues.

“The waste will be transported in lorries and should there be an accident it would be serious,” she said. “The HGVs will be much heavier,” 

Nadia Evans thought NREL was not giving the public much information.

Another local resident, Marcia Jurad (spelling) asked how Westbury would manage another estimated 100 HGVs if the plan came to fruition.

Dan Gmaj from the campaign group Westbury Gasification Group/ No Westbury Incinerator told the meeting, “NRE/Hills plan to build a waste combustion plant on our doorstep! If you do not believe that it is of benefit to our town to commit to 25 years of incineration of ’unidentified waste from anywhere’ then you need to act before Tuesday 22nd September.”

The group is objecting because of the plan’s location close to the town and local housing, its visual impact, environmental concerns, operating hours and the traffic to and from the site.

Dan Gmaj stated the new application is bigger than the last and would encourage waste production over recycling

“Our community oppose all forms of waste combustion in Westbury, and the only certainty at this meeting is that  the final decision to inflict ‘even lower standards of waste combustion than gasification’ on Westbury for generations, will not in fact be made in Westbury,” he said.

Representing NREL, project director Alex Young said, “We believe we have been transparent about our plans.” He said the firm took its responsibility to communicate honestly and clearly very seriously, and full details of the new plan had been presented at a virtual community event on 7th July.

“People are saying the facility will take waste from anywhere but that is misleading,” he said. “It will only take waste leftover after recycling/residual  material which is currently being exported to Europe or landfill.”

He said, “This is a safe and clean solution to the region’s waste management needs.”

Alex Young said the scheme would have “no measurable impact on the highway network.” 

NREL had previously been criticised by town councillors for submitting the latest plans as an amendment to previous plans, which had already received planning permission. Councillors said the latest submission was a full planning application. 

However, at the meeting, Alex Young said the public had been misled over this. “We are not seeking to amend the planning consent we have,” he reiterated.

Cllr Cunningham replied that it was unfair to say that people were misrepresented. “I think people may be confused by your choice of words that say amended,” he said.

After hearing public speakers, town councillors discussed their reply. Proposing a draft refusal, cllr King said the town council had had insufficient time to peruse, take in or evaluate NREL’s 237 statements and 2,000-plus page document or commissioned independent analysis.

He added that the applicant had failed to provide a biodiversity and geodiversity site analysis and statement, as required by the Wiltshire and Swindon Waste Site Allocations Plan 2013

“The applicant has failed to provide  any information, specification, description or technical detail of the technology the incinerator or impact analysis of the system they intend to use,” he said.

“The applicant has consistently refused to provide precise details of where and when they’ll source waste by type, quantity, composition,  transport arrangement, including the routing of the waste and 20 tonne HGVs to Northacre park. 

“The applicant has failed to take into account impacts their plan may have in terms of the potential serious consequence of increased traffic flows on the west Wiltshire transport network, by relying on old and out of date data.” 

NREL had  not considered increases of HGV traffic associated with weight restrictions on Bath’s Cleveland Bridge, which is diverting HGVs through Westbury, Cllr King said, or the impact of the Bath Clean Air Zone or its planned introduction of its next phase.

He explained that the company had also not taken  sufficient account of the significant impact of the plans on the local air quality.

“NREL is not the only emitter of foul and potential ly toxic pollutants on the Northacre site,” said cllr King. “There is the Brook  Lane Industrial Estate and West Wiltshire Trading Estate. The plan adds to this noxious mix and may produce a potentially dangerous coalescence of smells and pollutants  that will be harmful to the public health. 

“Because of their use of standard technical data and old  pre-Covid data, they have failed to produce an accurate assessment on the impact of local receptors of the noise emitted from the facility, especially at night when mixed with the array of noises that are currently recorded  and which are considered significant.” 

Cllr King added that the mass and bulk of the proposal had an unacceptable impact upon the landscape 

“In conclusion, this council recommends that the applicant by their reliance on old pre-Covid data has made a series of assertions and conclusions that are based entirely on assumptions. By doing that they failed to provide a report or assessment that comes close to  providing either a reasonable or accurate assessment of the impacts of the development.”

The draft proposal was amended to include two further points – the lifetime of the plant and Wiltshire Council’s commitment to its declaration of a climate emergency. 

“The lifetime of the plant has already been mentioned by (public speaker) Nadia Evans in her contributions but it’s a very key point,” said cllr Cunningham. 

“Any calculations on attempted carbon neutrality now don’t allow for the fact that we would hope not to be in the same situation as we are now in 10, 15, 20 years time. So although you can offset. in calculations,  the burning of other carbon sources against electricity generated, overall the lifetime of the plant is clearly very nebulous unless we actually propose never to improve any further on our production.”

Cllr Cunningham’s final point was that Wiltshire Council  had declared a climate emergency and should be looking at higher levels of recycling where waste is not being burnt at all, but recycled in a meaningful way.

“Wiltshire Council should be reminded of their commitment and that the burning process is just one foot off the bottom  of the list,” he said. 

“The  burning process isn’t going to significantly reduce output to the atmosphere compared to putting it in landfill  – it still goes to the atmosphere,  you just get a bit of electricity from it while you’re doing it.”

Seconding cllr King’s draft proposal,  cllr Mike Kettlety said, “I very much feel that the information we’ve been given is slight, inadequate and in fact it does try very much to hurry us along  to make a very important decision which we need to consider carefully.” 

He  later added that it was not enough to accept a statement by NREL representative and project lead, Alex Young, earlier in the meeting, that the larger incinerator was going to take the same amount of traffic in and out of the area as the previously approved facility. 

“There’s no doubt there will be an increase in traffic and we need to know what that increase is going to be,” cllr Kettlety said.

Mayor of Westbury, cllr Mike Sutton said, “It’s a very big document and it’s made out it’s very comprehensive, but I think the thing about such documents is that it’s telling what’s not in there, rather than what’s in there.”

He added there should not be anything produced that was sent to waste in the first place, and the emphasis should be on prevention.

Cllr Ward Jones said, “No-one from the public has appeared tonight to speak in favour of the scheme.

“I believe that we as a council have to listen to the public.”

Residents had spoken overwhelmingly against the plan, he added.  “I think if we don’t vote against this it is a gross neglection of our responsibility to represent the people of Westbury.”

The closing date for comments is Tuesday 22nd September.

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