Basildon incinerator recommended for approval despite permit ban

Plans for a controversial incinerator in Basildon have been recommended for approval – three months after councillors asked for more information to allow a decision to be made.

But longer-term plans for the Archers Fields incinerator capable of burning up to 150,000 tonnes of waste a year remain unclear following a decision by the Government to temporarily halt issuing permits for new incinerator plants – such as would be required even with planning permission.

Essex County Council’s planning committee decided to defer the matter in January on grounds that more needed to be done to examine the impacts of plans for the Archers Fields incinerator.

The energy from waste (EFW) facility on the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate in Archers Fields would burn non-hazardous residual waste to generate 11 megawatts of power – enough for 20,000 homes. Waste gases would be discharged through two chimneys 50 metres high.

The company behind it, Archers Field Energy Recovery Ltd says non-hazardous waste from businesses in the local area already comes into the industrial estate to be recycled at its existing Clearaway facility. However, not all of the material can be recycled so currently some has to be sent to landfill.

That is no longer seen as a sustainable option and Essex County Council – responsible for the disposal of 350,000 tonnes of waste generated annually from kerbside black bin bags – said it will stop sending waste to landfill by the beginning of 2028.

However, members of Essex County Council’s Development and Regulation Committee wanted to know more about the impact of the stack and the power plant’s emissions and want to review the consultation that has been carried out.

But neither the county landscape officer nor the county air quality consultant has on review of the information considered there to be any changes to their previous positions on the visual impact of the stack or emissions.

A statement in front of members said: “It is considered that the application remains acceptable in planning land use terms and does conflict with the Development Plan, National Guidance or other material considerations.”

Even if the plans are passed by the council, the facility will need a permit from the Environment Agency – which has said in addition to other elements of the proposed incinerator design, it will need to be assessed as part of a permit application for the facility whether the proposed stack height can be considered Best Available Technique (BAT).

The council had earlier said it was opposed to the plans – adding that “whilst it is noted that the facility would require an environmental permit from the Environment Agency, the council remains concerned about the health impacts arising from the proposed development.”

The decision in front of the council comes after a decision by the Government to temporarily ban permits for new incinerator plants in England. The environment department is now considering how many plants are needed as it decides whether there is over-provision in the sector.

When the order to pause the granting of permits was issued by Environment Minister Sir Mark Spencer in April, it was suggested Defra’s work would be completed by May 24. But that has been extended to July 18.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay has been recused from decision-making due to his own opposition to a planned incinerator in his own North East Cambridgeshire constituency.


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter