County council challenged to prove green credentials by rejecting Pitsea incinerator

Essex County Council has been challenged to reject a £50 million waste incinerator plant if it is serious about its climate change commitments.

The Pitsea plant could be big enough to divert 150,000 tonnes of waste every year from landfill, creating enough electricity to power 20,000 homes

But according to EU funded Zero Waste Europe the site planned by Clearaway could generate more than 250,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Clearaway plans for the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate comes as rubbish from across south Essex is sent to landfill sites following the failure of the Tovi Eco Park in Basildon last year.

The waste at the new plant will be used to generate up to 11mw of electricity and will also create 10 full-time permanent jobs, as well as more opportunities during construction, the company says.

But Councillor Kerry Smith suggested at a meeting of the county council that the plans do not fit with the local authority’s pledges on climate change.

He said: “The Pitsea incinerator is being proposed and yes, a decision has not yet been made and yes it is quasi-judicial and I am not asking for an opinion. But using the website Zero Euro Waste and looking at the planning application submitted it calculates it is going to generate 255,000 tonnes of CO2.

“If you are a true believer of man-made climate change you’d be dead against an incinerator.

“I hope that when the application is put to the relevant committee at ECC, the leader and his team attend and object.”

Earlier in the meeting of the council, leader of ECC Kevin Bentley said the council was committed to delivering its climate change commitments.

He said: “We said in the 100 Day Plan that we must focus on our infrastructure, and this strategy does that, setting out our plan to invest £1 billion into the fabric of Essex over the next four years.

“While we do all that, we must also continue to pursue investment and green growth.

“We are refusing the false and unsustainable choice between economic growth and action on climate change.

“We choose both. In fact we placed action on climate change at the heart of our 100 Day Plan.

“That is why it is at the heart of our strategy, and that is why I have appointed Councillor Schweir to lead our work in this area.

“We are committed to hitting our net zero targets as an organisation and working with communities and businesses to enable them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Later this month we will receive the final report of the Climate Action Commission, we will consider its recommendations carefully before responding – we want to be an exemplar for other councils across the country and other businesses in Essex on the basis of the seriousness with which we address this challenge.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter