Stroud District Council challenge incinerator decision

Stroud District Council is submitting a legal challenge to Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles regarding his decision to approve plans for an incinerator to be built in the area, as the county council prepares to vote on whether to terminate the contract.

Stroud District Council challenge incinerator decision
Artist's impression of the Javelin Park incinerator

The proposed energy-from-waste facility at Javelin Park, near Haresfield, forms part of Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s (UBB) waste contract with Gloucestershire County Council (estimated to be worth approximately £500 million). According to the developers, once built, the facility will have the capacity to burn 190,000 tonnes of waste a year and produce electricity to power approximately 26,000 homes.

Permission decision

Plans for the incinerator were first approved in 2013 by Gloucestershire County Council, but were scuppered by delays in planning permission. Following a change in local government however, the new council’s planning committee refused planning consent for the incinerator on the grounds that, by the end of the waste contract, the technology would be antiquated and ‘inflexible’. However, when UBB appealed the council’s decision, the application was called in for inquiry by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Last month, Pickles announced that the plans for the plant could go ahead, adding that dismissing the appeal would have resulted in ‘a delay of some years at least in moving away from disposal to landfill of the County’s residual municipal solid waste’.

It is this decision that the district council is now challenging.

Aim is to ‘limit any adverse landscape and subsequent economic impact’

A spokesman for Stroud District Council said: “We can confirm that we have submitted papers to challenge the secretary of state’s decision to approve the incinerator application.”

The challenge is reportedly based upon the inspector’s interpretation of Gloucestershire’s Waste Core Strategy (WCS), specifically landscape issues relating to the visual impact of the height and scale of the facility. The spokesperson said: “At the inquiry held last year the district councils, [Gloucestershire] County Council and those previously involved in the drafting of the WCS were all surprised by the way that the inspector applied the elements of the strategy which were designed to protect the landscape.

“Our aim is to have those elements applied correctly, in the way that they were intended, and to limit any adverse landscape and subsequent economic impact and maintain the beauty and the economy of the county.”

Legal challenge ‘would not necessarily change the outcome'

Speaking after the announcement of the district council’s legal proceedings, Gloucestershire County Council’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Ray Theodoulou, commented: “Any judicial review would have to be about the way the secretary of state reached his decision, not about the merits of the scheme itself.

“We understand that one of the reasons the decision was delayed was because the Department for Communities and Local Government were keen to ensure it was robust, and not at significant risk of legal challenge. Even were a judicial review to succeed, its effect would only be to make the secretary of state take the decision again – it would not necessarily change the outcome of that decision.”

Javier Peiro, Project Director for UBB, stated: “We are disappointed to learn that Stroud District Council has decided to submit an application to challenge the secretary of state’s decision to grant permission for our application for an energy-from-waste facility at Javelin Park.

“The legal challenge would be against the secretary of state’s decision although Urbaser Balfour Beatty will have the opportunity to assist in defending the case. As such, we await the details of Stroud District Council’s application and we will co-operate fully with the process as required.

“The facility is designed to manage the waste from Gloucestershire’s [approximate] 600,000 residents that is left over after recycling. The secretary of state found our proposals to be in line with the relevant planning policy and Gloucestershire County Council’s Waste Core Strategy. This further delay only increases the environmental and economic cost to Gloucestershire of continuing to landfill.”

Incineration and energy-from-waste project plans are often the source of contention and many projects have been called in for public inquiry in recent years. Indeed, Eric Pickles has previously come under fire for his decisions – with it being made public last week that he had delayed making a decision on the future of a (now abandoned) incineration project in Norfolk, despite receiving a recommendation for the project to go ahead.

Calls for county council to cancel contract

In a related development, Gloucestershire County Council is set to meet at an extraordinary council meeting tomorrow morning to vote on whether or not to call on the cabinet to cancel the Javelin Park incinerator contract, despite Pickles’s recommendation for the project to go ahead.

The meeting, initiated by Labour councillors Lesley Williams, Barry Kirby, Tracy Millard, Steve Lydon, and Steve McHale, was called after the councillors noted the ‘widespread public opposition to the building of an incinerator at Javelin Park’, the fact that there are ‘viable alternative waste disposal solutions, such as MBT, available’, and the fact that the cabinet has ‘ignored the widespread opposition to the building of the incinerator’.

As such, the councillors have submitted a motion calling on the cabinet to ‘cancel the incinerator contract with immediate effect’. It has been reported that this could cost ‘between £60 million and £100 million’.

It is thought that the majority of the Labour and Green councillors, along with some Liberal Democrat councillors sitting on the council, will vote for the motion on cost, and health and air pollution grounds. Twenty-seven votes will be needed to pass the motion.

The cabinet is not scheduled to meet again until 15 April.

Find out more about the UBB Javelin Park incinerator.

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