Derby EfW decision to go to High Court

Energy from waste

A group of campaigners including Sinfin, Spondon and All Against Incineration (SSAIN) and Friends of the Earth Derby, have asked for a Judicial Review to challenge the latest decision to grant planning permission to an energy-from-waste (EfW) incinerator in Derby.

The planning permissions relates to a £130-million Sinfin Lane incinerator, proposed by Resource Recovery Solutions (a wholly-owned subsidiary of waste management company, Shanks Group plc), which would have the capacity to process up to 190,000 tonnes of waste a year and reportedly divert up to 96.5 per cent of residents’ residual waste from landfill.

The plant would utilise mechanical biological treatment (MBT) to extract recyclable materials from residual waste and produce solid recovered fuel (SRF) to power an on-site gasification facility. This facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power 14,000 homes.

Derby City Council had originally turned down RRS’s application for the plant in 2009 as it had ruled that the plant would interfere with recycling levels, but the decision was later overturned by High Court, after the company took the council into legal proceedings.

A second planning inquiry, triggered by the court proceedings, was granted by Planning Inspector Alan Robinson in September, and could see RRS finalise the 27-year contract with Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council. It is estimated that this contract is worth £400 million.

Environmental concerns

However, campaigners say that Robinson has not ‘fully [taken] into account’ evidence that reportedly shows that the incinerator will create 172,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year and breach nitrogen dioxide levels in two Air Quality Management Areas.

In a statement, Simon Bacon, Chairman of SSAIN, said he has spoken to lawyers about the inspector’s ruling and that the ‘returned legal opinion was that there was a case to be made against the ruling’. Following this advice, a challenge was issued at the High Court of Justice in London.

Friends of the Earth Derby added: ‘Together with… SSAIN - Sinfin, Spondon and All Against Incineration and members of the community, we fight on’.

Speaking about the decision, Shanks Group plc said that although it is aware ‘a legal challenge to the planning inspector’s decision has been submitted to the High Court’, it is still ‘in the process of reviewing the detail of this challenge’ with legal council and is ‘unable’ to make any further comment until it ‘understand[s] the basis for the challenge’. An update will reportedly be released ‘in due course’.

Bankrupting the council

However, speaking to the Derby Telegraph, Councillor Paul Bayliss, Leader of Derby City Council, said that a waste plant would still be built, as the cost of legal fees and damages for the Judicial Review would bankrupt the council.

He said: “There will be a waste plant in Sinfin, I have no choice.

“I have sought a second legal opinion and, basically, I’m in a position that, if we don’t go ahead, I will be bankrupting the council because of the legal damages… If we break this contract and walk away the consequence is we would have to pay the legal fees of around £1.2 million and have to pay for RRS’s costs so far, which are about £10 million. There could be other consequential costs and RRS could sue and force us to lease them the site anyway.”

The Derby Telegraph also reported that Derby County Council wrote to Councillor Bayliss to say that Derbyshire is incurring losses of £1 million a month for every month the plant is not built.

Councillor Bayliss added: “We have taken a careful look at our options and explored all the potential sites with our partner. As part of the financial close we will ensure we have best value for the City of Derby. We recognise that we need a waste facility in place that will serve Derby in the future.”

Construction on the plant is expected to begin in September 2013.

Read more about the proposed Resource Recovery Solutions plant.