DCLG upholds rejection of New Barnfield incinerator plans
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has once again elected to reject the planning permission for energy-from-waste (EfW) firm Veolia’s waste incinerator to be located at New Barnfield in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
This is the latest development in an ongoing saga that began when the DCLG ‘called in’ Veolia’s planning application for the 380,000-tonne per annum incinerator, after it was argued that Hertfordshire County Council (Herts CC) failed to address 6,300 responses opposing the project over health and environmental fears before granting the facility planning permission in 2012.
After assessing the New Barnfield incinerator planning application in 2013, DCLG's Secretary of State refused to grant planning permission to Veolia on the grounds that the benefits of the plant did not outweigh the potential dangers.
However, following an appeal by Veolia, the High Court overturned the government’s rejection sighting ‘very special circumstances’ to allow the plant to be built. These circumstances included Herts CC’s Waste Site Allocations 2011 – 2026 plan, which had suggested the Veolia site would be removed from the Green Belt in future and did not therefore need protection.
The High Court ruling meant that the Planning Inspectorate and Secretary of State had to reassess the application, but on Thursday (July 16), DCLG once again rejected the plans.
According to a letter sent to Veolia from DCLG’s Julian Pitt (on behalf of Secretary of State Greg Clark), the main issues associated with the plant include:
Effects on the Green Belt: As the proposed site has some development, the Secretary of State and the planning inspectors felt that the addition of the incineration plant would have detrimental effects on the remaining gap between Hatfield and Welham Green; and
Landscape and visual effects: The Secretary of State and the inspectors stated that whilst the design had individual merit, it failed to pay ‘appropriate attention’ to its surroundings, could ‘result in significant harm to a number of heritage assets’, and be intrusive.
Secretary of State ‘attaches great importance to Green Belts’
He added that there were was ‘no obvious alternative site that would perform significantly better in environmental terms and that is suitable for the use proposed and available for a development of the scale proposed at New Barnfield’, as many of the sites which score highly are also in the Green Belt, are not big enough, and would likely have ‘significant’ visual, heritage and landscape impacts.
The letter reads: ‘The Secretary of State attaches great importance to Green Belts. Very special circumstances will not exist unless the harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations. Overall, the Secretary of State considers that the considerations in favour of the proposal do not clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm identified. Accordingly, he concludes that very special circumstances necessary to justify the development do not exist…
‘Accordingly… the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s recommendation. He hereby refuses your application for the demolition of existing library buildings and construction and operation of a Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) for the treatment of [m]unicipal, [c]ommercial and [i]ndustrial [w]astes together with ancillary infrastructure, including bulking/transfer facilities, administration/visitor centre, landscaping, habitat creation, drainage and highway improvement works on land at New Barnfield, Hatfield.’
Veolia to evaluate ‘draft alternative solution’ for Hertfordshire
Keith McGurk, Veolia’s Regional Director for the East, commented: “Our application to develop a Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility in Hatfield received positive support from Hertfordshire County Council in 2012 when they resolved to grant permission, so after a further three years of deliberation by the Secretary of State, this news is very disappointing.”
He added: “This innovative facility would have extracted further recyclable material from Hertfordshire’s black bag waste before generating electricity for the national grid by treating what remains. It would have supported both local investment and job creation.
“We will carefully review the details of the decision letter before considering any further action and will continue to work with the local authority as they assess and evaluate our draft alternative solution for Hertfordshire, which was submitted on 7 July.”
Councillor John Dean, Leader of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, welcomed the decision, stating: "We are very pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed that this site is not suitable for the incinerator.
"The unsuitability of the proposed location in Hatfield has been argued relentlessly by Members, officers and local residents and I would like to thank everyone who got involved and worked tirelessly to show the strength of feeling that existed within the community.
"We have never been opposed in principle to an 'energy from waste' solution to manage the county's waste and will continue to work with our county colleagues to look at more appropriate ways of delivering this."
Hatfield MP and Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Grant Shapps took to social media outlet Twitter to praise the decision, stating ‘It’s over and we’ve won!’
— Grant Shapps (@grantshapps) July 17, 2015
Read the full decision letter from DCLG.