DCLG calls in Veolia’s Hatfield incinerator plans

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has called in Veolia Environmental Services’ (Veolia) planning application to build a 380,000-tonnes per year waste incinerator at New Barnfield, in Hatfield.

Despite having been granted planning permission from Hertfordshire County Council’s (Herts CC) Development and Control Committee on 24 October 2012, the energy-from-waste plant – which could process up to 380,000 tonnes of waste a year and produce 26.6 megawatts of electricity – will now be subject to a public inquiry overseen by an independent planning inspector.

The DCLG had issued a holding direction to Herts CC in November 2012 (removing its ability to grant planning permission) after opponents claimed that the council ‘casually dismissed’ 6,300 responses opposing the project over health and environmental damage fears.

In a letter written by Lindsay Speed on behalf of DCLG Secretary of State Eric Pickles to Iain Leech, Senior Planning Officer at Herts CC, yesterday (28 January), it was explained that Pickles decided to intervene in the plan’s application due to ‘matters that give rise to substantial cross boundary or national controversy’.

As part of the call in there will now be a public inquiry chaired by a planning inspector who will accept evidence from all interested parties before sending Pickles a summary of the evidence along with a recommendation whether to ‘accept, accept with conditions or reject the application’.

The final decision will be taken by Pickles, who can reject the recommendation, provided that he gives ‘good reasons’ for so doing.

Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Environment at Herts CC, said: “Veolia’s application is complex, the site is in the green belt and it has attracted a large number of objections, so we’ve always thought that there was a chance it could be called in.

“Planning in a county like Hertfordshire is always going to involve balancing different considerations, but we believe that there is a compelling case for granting planning permission, and we will be putting that case to the public inquiry.

“We don’t expect the Secretary of State to make a decision until the late autumn.” 

Council ‘casually dismissed’ objections

According to Hatfield Anti-Incineration, the application was opposed not only by ‘thousands of residents both local and from wider in the county’, but also by ‘Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, Hatfield Town Council, local Parish Councils, North Mymms Green Belt Society, and many other local organisations’.

Further, Colney Heath Councillor Chris Brazier warned that there was a danger local villages would be “surrounded by waste disposal units”, as construction of an anaerobic digester was also recently approved for construction at nearby Coursers Farm, leading to questions over how to secure feedstock for both plants. Some fear the area could see recyclable material sent to the incinerator to cope with overcapacity.

Cathy Roe, Secretary of Hatfield Against Incineration, welcomed the calling in, saying: “This means that the issues that local residents and other campaigners have raised will now be explored by an independent inspector instead of being casually dismissed by Herts County Council.

“We are sure that the case against an incinerator at New Barnfield is so strong that the inspector will refuse planning permission. That we have been granted this inquiry is thanks to all those who have worked so hard to support the campaign.”