Wiltshire Publications

Incinerator fight is not over yet!

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OPPONENTS of the planned new £200m waste to energy incinerator for Westbury, which received approval from Wiltshire Council last month, have vowed to fight on, saying all is not lost.  

Local MP, Andrew Murrison, has asked for the decision to be “called in” for further scrutiny by the Secretary of State for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick.

And every household in Westbury will be urged to write to the Secretary of State by the town council to back the ongoing battle against the incinerator. 

At the council’s meeting on Monday members unanimously approved Cllr Matthew Dean’s motion for the authority to send a letter to all residents asking them to write to Robert Jenrick requesting that he calls in Wiltshire Council’s approval of NREL’s gasification plant plan. 

25 year blight

Cllr Dean said if the application goes ahead Westbury will live with its consequences for at least the plant’s 25-year life span. 

“It’s highly likely this will be a blight on this town for that period,” cllr Dean said. “I can’t think of a single thing that’s more pressing than this. I hope a large number of residents write to the Secretary of State.” 

A petition entitled “Say no to Westbury incinerator” has also been created on CHANGE.ORG and so far signed by over 2,800 people. It is also available to sign in Cards Plus for those without internet access. 

Carbon belching monster

Andrew Murrison MP said, “We still have the opportunity to stop this carbon-belching monster. Any final decision is still some way off. I will be writing to the Secretary of State clearly outlining my – and my constituents’ – main concerns with this proposal. 

“I will also be seeking a meeting with him, where, hopefully, local stakeholders will also be able to engage and put forward their points of view.” 

The application, which was opposed by 18 local councils and attracted over 2,100 written objections during consultation, received the go-ahead from Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee, with seven votes to four in favour of the application. 

Leader of Wiltshire Council, cllr Richard Clewer, has denied that it was a Conservative Party line for all its 7 members of the committee to vote for the incinerator. He said that if he was on the committee, he would have voted for the incinerator too, not because he wanted it, but because “there was no good planning reason to reject it.” . 

Local people have called the decision shameful, appalling, disgusting, morally obscene and a day of infamy for Westbury. 

At Monday’s town council meeting, cllr Dean asked his colleagues to vote in favour of his motion to send a letter to all residents asking them to write to the Secretary of State. “The civil service and government departments put more weight on written communications than emails so if we could organise a letter writing campaign that would be extremely useful,” he said.

Air quality

Additional lorry movements through the town, which already has poor air quality, and the effect on farmers both local and across the borders in Hampshire and Dorset were important factors, Cllr Dean added.  

A second motion by Cllr Ward Jones that the council write to the Secretary of State appealing to him to call in the proposal and refuse it, taking into account the overwhelming local and regional objections, was also unanimously approved. 

Cllr Jones said, “That this could put the government in a poor [reputational] light is crucial; it could have significant effects beyond the local boundary; the pollution caused by the lorries is a major problem.” 

Cllr Jane Russ agreed with both speakers, saying, ”The climate emergency issue is something which has been shown to be a hook on which we can hang a call-in.”

Cllr Mike Sutton said, “We need to keep the battle up. We have to keep this battle up – we can put a piece in the newsletter asking people to write to Robert Jenrick, asking him to call it in.   

“Let’s keep fighting for the people of Westbury, we are all they’ve got now.” 

Cllr Mike Kettley said, “It’s important that we communicate to residents how this council feels about this. It’s the biggest issue we’ve had to face in 10 years – it’s something we are whole-heartedly against.

“There will be more protests by the people of Westbury who will not put up with this and they are being mobilised! 

“I hope we will support the people saying no this abomination.” 

Cllr Dean stressed, “The only way we are going to get over the plan is by having a mass letter writing from the town to the Secretary of State.  

“I’m a big fan of social media and we need to spend some time and money boosting our ‘likes’ and tweeting our information, making sure we get to the people.  If we want to get under the line and get thousands of people to write to the SoS we have to write to them and give them the tools. If we don’t they won’t do it. The one thing that everyone will look at is a letter from their council telling them what to do.  

“This is for me the highest priority and it would be a travesty of duty if we don’t provide some resources for every resident to write to the SoS. I can’t think what would be more important than to write to our residents, telling then what’s going on.” 

Cllr Dean’s fully approved proposal was for the council to write to every resident, for the clerk to develop a social media campaign and resource it to a maximum of £500, to support third parties such as anti-incinerator group WGAG, to publicise public meetings, rallies etc and to contact parish and town councils in a structured way, asking them to object.  

The four Wiltshire councillors who voted against the application were cllr Carole King, who represents Westbury, cllr Adrian Foster who represents Chippenham, cllr Sarah Gibson who represents Bradford-on-Avon and cllr Ernie Clark who represents Hilperton. 

Cllr King told White Horse News she would be writing to Robert Jenrick saying, “I can understand how disappointed people are feeling at this point, after the planning application was approved, as I was too.  

“After we were able to ask ‘technical questions’, we should move on to debate, which the chair did announce. The problem is that the Conservatives, from my memory of past strategic planning meetings, usually come in with a motion to support the application and a seconder soon follows. That stifles debate where you can more fully argue your case for and against.” 

But she said, “We can certainly write to the Secretary of State and that is what I will be doing.  

“It just strikes me that local people are spending their money on bee friendly gardens, water conservation measures, solar panels etc and trying to do their bit for the environment. The social housing estate opposite me was built with solar panels to help with hot water costs. Even Wiltshire Council is seriously scrutinising where its pension monies are invested in line with climate change.  

“It seems to be only the companies with shareholders, like Northacre and the big developers, who are not keen to do their bit towards the environment. It’s quite shameful.” 

Cllr Adrian Foster concurred with Cllr King, saying, “I would suggest letters of protest to Robert Jenick and the environment agency are our best course of action at present.” 

Cllr Suzanne Wickham, who represents Ethandune and was unable to attend the meeting where the decision was made but submitted a written opposition read out at the meeting,   advised, “If you are concerned about the recent planning decision regarding the incinerator, the best action to take is to write to Robert Jenrick, stating your support for Dr Andrew Murrison MP and his request for this application to be called in, and in your own words state the reasons you why you object to this proposal – this could be a planning reason or your concern regarding ARLA as a local employer.  

“A letter is preferable but the email address is Robert.Jenrick@communities.gov.uk” 

Anti-incinerator campaign group WGAG said, “Please do not despair!  

“This is yet again, only ‘the end of the beginning’ and I know that many of us just wish we could all jump off this poisoned merry-go-round. 

“So please know that calls are being made left, right and centre to ‘Call In’ (i.e. examine the decision at central government level) this decision from our MP, Arla dairies and many others including WGAG/No Westbury Incinerator, so be assured of that and other actions to come!”

Write to Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government at House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. 

If Robert Jenrick decides to call in the decision – which would be justified on the basis that the proposal is of national, rather than just local, significance – an inquiry would take place directed by the Planning Inspectorate. The Inspector has to make a report and recommendation to the Secretary of State under the circumstances existing at the time he or she makes it. 

The decision can be challenged in the High Court. Government guidance states that this could take place “if you think the Planning Inspectorate made a legal mistake.” 

In terms of a timeframe for this, the procedural guide (available on gov.uk) states: ‘Once we have received a called-in application we will send our initial letter confirming the inquiry procedure and notifying the applicant and the local planning authority of the reference number, the timetable for the called-in application and the specific address (room number and email address) to which any correspondence should be sent.’ Andrew Murrison’s office has not yet received a letter. 

Or, a judicial review can be initiated or the Environment Agency – who are in the process of deciding whether to grant a permit for operations at the plant – can be appealed to. 

This route would be pursued if the Secretary of State decides not to call in the application – it should be noted that Secretaries of State only call a few applications in every year. 









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