Heathrow Airport expansion could shut down incinerator

An energy-from-waste (EfW) plant could be forced to shut down if plans to build a new runway at Heathrow Airport go ahead, the Airports Commission has announced.

Heathrow Airport expansion could shut down incinerator

Lakeside EfW, a joint venture project between Grundon Waste Management and Viridor located in Colnbrooke near Slough, may face closure after the commission published its final report into the expansion of aviation capacity in the UK on Wednesday (1 July), following two years of consultation.

Of the three shortlisted schemes that were considered by the commission, the proposal to build a new northwest runway at Heathrow Airport received unanimous recommendation.

Should the proposal go ahead, the incineration facility, which opened in 2010 and burns up to 410,000 tonnes of residual waste a year to generate 37 megawatts of power, would have to be removed, as it falls in the 569-hectares of land required for the £18.6-billion development.

The airport’s original proposal was altered to move the potential site of the 3,500 metre-long runway, which would be accompanied by a new terminal building, further west to reduce noise pollution to nearby residents.

Neither of the two other schemes considered in the report – an extension to the northern runway at Heathrow, and a second runway at Gatwick Airport – would require the removal of an infrastructure asset of this scale.

Touching of the removal of the Lakeside EfW plant, the Airports Commission concludes: ‘The plant, while not of national importance, nevertheless plays a significant role in regional and local waste management and has a valuable capability to process clinical waste and other contaminated material.

‘Its replacement is necessary. The planning and construction of an [EfW] plant would be a substantial exercise in its own right; whose timescales are not substantially shorter than the delivery of new runway infrastructure. The process of planning a provision of an alternative facility should begin as soon as possible.

‘The scheme provider has begun a process of engagement with the owners of the plant with a view to identifying potential replacement sites.’

Viridor and Grundon have stated that as central government has yet to make a decision on its preferred option, it would be ‘inappropriate’ to comment at this time. However, a spokesperson for the joint venture confirmed it was in “detailed discussions with both Heathrow and Slough Borough Council about plans to ensure the long term sustainability and continuity of the energy from waste plant at Colnbrook”, adding that Grundon Waste Management is also involved in these discussions, as the company’s materials recovery facility, waste transfer station, clinical waste plant and offices, are co-located on the same landholding.

Report background

In 2012, the Airports Commission was tasked by the government to assess the three airport expansion schemes and how they could affect the UK’s long-term prosperity by maximising airport capacity. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said that the UK risks falling behind international rivals if it does not address its capacity.

It found that a new northwest runway at Heathrow will give a boost to both commercial and freight growth while generating up to £147 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) impacts over 60 years and over 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

However, it estimated that an expanded Heathrow would generate up to 47,000 tonnes of waste by 2040, compared to a figure of 14,500 calculated for the Gatwick scheme.

The recommendation provided by the commission in it’s final report included a list of provisos designed to limit the environmental impact of the expanded airport, including:

  • no fourth runway;
  • a legal commitment on air quality so that new capacity will only be released when it is clear that compliance with EU limits will not be delayed; and
  • a legally binding ‘noise envelope’ putting limits on the level of noise created by the airport.

Read the full Airports Commission report into UK airport capacity or find out more about the Lakeside EfW.