Veolia challenges Pickles on incinerator rejection

Veolia is challenging the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles on his decision to refuse planning permission to its new energy-from-waste (EfW) incineration plant at New Barnfield in Hertfordshire.

The application for the 380,000 tonne per annum incinerator (which forms part of Veolia’s 25-year waste contract with Hertfordshire County Council) was called in by the government in January 2013 and made subject to a public inquiry after opponents claimed that the council ‘casually dismissed’ 6,300 responses opposing the project over health and environmental damage fears.

Grounds for refusal

Last month, Veolia received a letter from Julian Pitt at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which outlined that Pickles had rejected the plans for the Hertfordshire Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility predominately upon the grounds that the proposed site would have been built on Green Belt land.

Writing on behalf of Pickles, Pitt stated that due to the size of the building, (the estimated volume of the proposed building would have been 585,000 cubic metres (m3), ‘almost 20 times the volume of the existing buildings’) ‘there would be substantial actual harm to the openness of the Green Belt’.

Indeed, it was argued that ‘development within the green belt will not be allowed unless there are very special circumstances, and in this case, the benefits of the development did not outweigh the potential harm to the green belt’.

Other objections against the application raised in the letter to Veolia included concerns about:

  • the design of the site that ‘fails to pay appropriate attention to the character and appearance of the surroundings, and would be viewed as an alien and intrusive structure in the landscape and surrounding area’;
  • the plant’s proximity to Hatfield House, a Grade I listed building, and the effects the proposal could have on heritage protection; and
  • the proximity to Southfield School. The letter stated that ‘parents of children with special needs, and indeed parents in general, may understandably perceive that a large waste treatment facility would be an unsuitable neighbour for a school’.

‘Policy and law have been misapplied’

However, Veolia has now confirmed that it is challenging Pickles on his deciision to refuse planning permission, with a spokesperson stating: “We can confirm that on Thursday 14 August we submitted a statutory challenge to the Secretary of State's refusal to give planning permission for the Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility at New Barnfield.

“Having studied the Secretary of State's decision we believe that current policy and law have been misapplied. We still strongly believe an in-county treatment solution is needed, as his own decision confirms, and we await the outcome of this process.”

An artist's impression of the facility is shown above.

Read DCLG’s refusal letter in full or find out about the New Barnfield incinerator.