Sustainability

Alternatives to Javelin Park incinerator

Javelin Park

Artist's impression of UBB's incinerator at Javelin Park

Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) this week (15 May) approved a motion to seek out alternative waste treatment technologies to process the area’s household waste, as part of the council’s opposition to Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s Javelin Park incinerator. 

The first meeting of the new county council since the local elections on 2 May – which saw the Conservatives lose their overall majority – saw Gloucestershire County Council ‘vigorously defend’ its decision to unanimously refuse planning permission to Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s (UBB) 190,000 tonne-a-year incinerator on 21 March. 

The planning committee had voted against the plans to send its residual waste to the incinerator (currently, residual waste is sent to landfill) for reasons including concerns over the visual impact the structure would have on the Severn Vale landscape, the argument that the plant was “not a modern waste management proposal”, and thoughts that by 2040 “technology will have moved on leaps and bounds and [thus the council would be] left with something inflexible”. 

The decision came just a month after the Conservative administration signed a 25-year energy-from-waste contract with UBB, thought to be worth £500 million. 

Appeal likely 

It is thought UBB will appeal the decision later this month, meaning that the final decision will likely be taken by an independent planning inspector. 

Councillor Stan Waddington, who has been the driving force behind the incinerator in the council, said: “This is now out of our hands. UBB is considering a planning appeal, meaning that the final decision is now likely to be taken by an independent planning inspector.

Stan Waddington“The Planning Committee has made a decision based on several concerns with the proposed incinerator’s prominence as a building. This is only one part of a detailed proposal, which has been supported by the full council on five separate occasions, where all 63 councillors have had the opportunity to have their say.

“In its refusal, the planning committee did not challenge the need for the facility, which will save Gloucestershire families up to £190 million in council tax. The council has so far invested a huge amount of time and effort over the past four years into this project to help secure that saving for Gloucestershire. Claims that there is some sort of penalty clause in the contract are simply untrue.

“We can’t go on putting our rubbish in holes in the ground. It’s neither environmentally friendly nor fair on the people who have to live next to landfill. We also cannot rely on shipping our waste to other places to deal with. We must have a safe, clean and environmentally friendly way to dispose of our rubbish that can’t readily be recycled – which is exactly what this facility at Javelin Park would provide.

“However, as I’ve said, it is now out of our hands as the democratic process continues.” 

Incinerator ‘no longer has the support’ of the council 

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Councillor Jeremy Hilton, who has been campaigning against the incinerator, proposed the following motion: ‘This council notes the decision made by the recent planning committee to reject the planning application to build a waste incinerator at Javelin Park. This council therefore calls on the Chief Executive to seek robust advice supporting the unanimous planning committee decision in any appeal process that may take place in the future. 

‘This council recognises that the waste incinerator project no longer has the support of this council following the outcome of the county council elections. This council therefore requests that the cabinet prepare alternatives for the disposal of our residual household waste.

‘This council suggests that mechanical biological treatment may be a suitable technology as an alternative to burning household waste.’ 

The motion was seconded by Councillor Sarah Lunnon. 

Cross party working group set up to consider ‘plan B’ 

Councillor HIltonSpeaking of the motion, Councillor Hilton said: “The planning committee refused permission to build this massive waste incinerator for sound planning reasons. They were unhappy about the size of the building, which is taller than Gloucester Cathedral and its harm to the local landscape [as well as t]he overbearing impact the incinerator would have on nearby residential properties. The council must vigorously defend this decision in any appeal that UBB may take in the future.” 

He continued: “The council cannot stand idly by waiting for the appeal process to be concluded. We need to start working on plan B. My preferred solution would be mechanical biological treatment as the cornerstone of a more environmentally- and taxpayer-friendly alternative. We must start working on this tomorrow.” 

The county council agreed that a ‘plan B’ will be prepared and a cross-party working group will be ‘immediately set up’ to consider alternatives to the waste incinerator. 

Overcapacity 

Fears over the UK’s over-reliance on incineration have gained momentum after Eunomia reported in November last year that planning consent for incinerators is being granted ‘faster than applications are being made’, and that without any change in residual waste quantities, by 2015/16, there would be ‘overcapacity of 6.9 million tonnes per annum’. This, the report adds, could lead to recyclable materials being sent to the facilities to ensure that they are running in an efficient manner. 

Read more about the Javelin Park facility on UBB's website.