Decision over Basildon’s planned 11MW waste for energy plant deferred

A decision for controversial plans for an energy from waste incinerator in Basildon has been “ducked” in the face of recommendations for it to be approved.

Essex County Council’s planning committee has decided to defer the matter on grounds the more need to be done to examine the impacts of plans for the Archers Fields incinerator capable of burning up to 150,000 tonnes of waste a year.

The energy from waste (EFW) facility on Burnt Mills Industrial Estate in Archers Fields would burn non-hazardous residual waste to generate 11MW 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 is having 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 generated annually from kerbside black bags – itself has said it will stop sending waste to landfill by the beginning of 2028.

But members of Essex County Council’s Development and Regulation Committee wanted to know more about the impact from the stack and the power plants emissions as well as wanted to review the consultation that has been carried out.

Councillor Craig Rimmer (Cons, Pitsea South-East) whose ward residents are among those who live closest the site said he was pleased the plans had not been passed but that eventually he wanted it “killed off”.

He said: “Deferral is better than approval and it looks like it was going that way .

“The members have obviously expressed concerns about impacts on residents so I am glad they have shared those.

“I hope they can get to a place where they refuse it because it is a bit of a Sword of Damocles that is hanging over residents’ heads at the moment and it would be good just to kill this off.”

The decision by Essex County Council’s planning committee on Friday, January 26 came a week after a fire broke out at the Archers Field site.

Residents were advised to keep windows and doors shut after huge plumes of smoke were left bellowing out of the site after around 250 tonnes of waste as well as plant machinery caught fire.

Councillor Rimmer added: “It’s in a bad area and going to impact on the health of residents in terms of shortening life expectancy and there is no guarantee they can actually stop future accidents on this site based on what happened.”

The facility, which would be built with two chimneys each up to 50-metres tall, would need a permit from the Environment Agency but even so Basildon Council says it remains concerned about the health impacts arising from the proposed development – adding energy from waste facilities emit emissions of nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter.

Basildon council unanimously resolved at its meeting held in October 2020 that if Essex County Council approves the waste plant in Archers Fields there will be a significant increase in the number of heavy goods vehicles within Pitsea which “will adversely affect the air quality and almost certainly lead to the imposition of a congestion charge by the Government”.

Councillor Aidan McGurran (Lab, Vange) said: “They could and should have made a decision today. As councillors you get an agenda before a meeting. If there are issues you want to question, you can raise them in advance.

“I think they have ducked what was a potentially unpopular decision and a cynic might say deferring it probably until after May may have had something to do with it.”

Kevin Parr, an agent for the applicant, said traffic movements will actually reduce with a new incinerator.

He added: “Both the borough’s environmental health team and the public health England clearly are quite satisfied with the technical assessment that supported the planned application and they raise no objection.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter