DCLG rejects New Barnfield incinerator plans
Ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have refused to grant waste management company Veolia Environmental Services (Veolia) permission to build an energy-from-waste (EfW) incineration plant (an artist's impression of which is pictured, right) at New Barnfield in Hertfordshire.
The decision concludes the planning process that began in October 2012, when Herfordshire County Council Development and Control Committee granted permission for the construction of a site with the capacity to process 380,000 tonnes of waste per year. However, the application was called in by the government in January 2013 and made subject to a public inquiry overseen by an independent planning inspector after opponents claimed that the council ‘casually dismissed’ 6,300 responses opposing the project over health and environmental damage fears.
‘The benefits of the development do not outweigh the potential harm’
The final decision on planning permission was made earlier this week, when the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, rejected the plans predominately upon the grounds that the proposed site would have been built on Green Belt land.
Writing to Veolia on behalf of Pickles on Monday (7 July), Julian Pitt from DCLG 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’.
Further to this, Pickles said: “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’.
The letter also provided grounds for the rejection of future proposals detailing that ‘the Secretary of State also agrees that plants capable of handling lesser tonnages would not necessarily be proportionately smaller, or less visually intrusive that the New Barnfield proposal’.
In response to the decision, Robert Hunt, Veolia UK’s Chief Corporate Officer, said: “We are very disappointed by the recent decision by the Secretary of State and are studying carefully the reasons given by him for his refusal of planning consent for the proposed Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility at Hatfield, despite it having received a resolution to approve at local level.
“We would like to make clear that the proposed facility is located on previously developed land within the Green Belt and given the recent decision in favour of the Pinewood Studios expansion there now appear to be obvious inconsistencies in Green Belt planning policy.
“In our view there remains a clear local need for regional waste treatment infrastructure of this nature in Hertfordshire. This decision and the length of the decision-making process also send out a very negative signal to inward investors in UK Plc.”