Wiltshire Publications

Environment Agency say Hills’ record will not influence incinerator permit decision

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MAYOR Sheila Kimmins has said she will be ‘extraordinarily surprised’ if the complaints about the ‘awful stench’ coming from the Hills waste plant aren’t taken into account when Hills apply for a licence to operate their planned incinerator. 

The incinerator site.

But the Environment Agency – who have to issue a licence for the incinerator to operate – has suggested that Hills’ record will not play a big part in its decision because the incinerator will be operated by a different part of the company to the one running the waste plant.

Planning permission for an incinerator was granted by Wiltshire Council earlier this year but it will still need a licence from the Environment Agency before it can be operated.

“I think it would be surprising and most extraordinary if a company who does not have the best record for managing their site did not have that taken into consideration when they are applying for a licence to operate something that is far larger,” said cllr Kimmins. 

She has written to the EA on behalf of the town council asking whether the stench from Hills’ existing waste plant will have any bearing on the company receiving a licence to operate the incinerator. Hills have come under fire from the public over how long they took to fix a faulty biofilter, which led to residents complaining about a ‘consistent and awful stench’ that blighted their summer.

In reply to the mayor’s letter, the EA said, “Regarding your final point about the proposed incinerator, it is worth noting that while Hills have an interest in the proposed new facility, the Hills Group have a number of companies that sit under their group umbrella. The arm of the company responsible for managing the current MBT  (waste plant) will be different from the part of the business operating the energy from waste (EFW) facility (the incinerator) which will be known as Northacre Renewable Energy Ltd (NREL) jointly owned by the Hills Group and Bioenergy Infrastructure Group.  

“As part of the permit application, most of the engagement and interaction has been with Bioenergy Infrastructure Group who have experience of running EFW plants elsewhere in the country, and should the Environment Agency be minded to issue a permit for the EFW, Hills will not be building, maintaining or running that plant.”

Cllr Kimmins said in response to the letter, “I think it would be surprising and most extraordinary if a company who does not have the best record for managing their site did not have that taken into consideration when they are applying for a licence to operate something that is far larger and have more effect on the surrounding area – not just from emissions, but from traffic as well. 

“The EA have to look at all cases, but I would be surprised if they do not take into consideration all the complaints that have been made. They’ve certainly been monitoring the situation on a regular basis, so will be aware of Hills’ shortcomings. 

“We’re not only thinking of the town council and Westbury as a whole, but we’re also taking into consideration Arla, because if Arla close, it would have a disastrous effect, not just on jobs, but also farming and all the milk producers in the Southwest. That is why the NFU (National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales) have been voicing their concerns. 

“It is disappointing what the EA have said but I do understand in some ways that they must not take sides.” 

Wiltshire Council approved NREL’s plans for a waste incinerator to be built, in June, despite large-scale opposition from Westbury and surrounding towns and villages. A decision is expected soon by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Michael Gove MP, as to whether he will ‘call in’ to reconsider the decision. 

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