In Focus - Coalition support for energy cited in approval

Covanta Energy has secured a development consent order for an energy-from-waste plant in Bedfordshire in the first decision by the Infrastructure Planning Commission. The firm can now proceed with its 65MW facility at Rookery South Pit near Stewartby, subject to a special parliamentary procedure to confirm compulsory acquisition of land and rights.

Rookery South: energy from waste development consent order secured. Covanta Energy photo
Rookery South: energy from waste development consent order secured. Covanta Energy photo

The panel of commissioners noted the government's strong support for energy plants, including those fuelled by waste. In their opinion, the benefits of meeting this need outweighed the scheme's adverse impacts in visual terms and all other matters considered during the examination.

The panel acknowledged that the plant would be significantly larger than required to serve the Bedfordshire and Luton area and therefore conflicted with the development plan, which discourages the import of waste from outside the county. But they found that the sustainability benefits of having a single large plant would be significant compared with the alternative of developing a number of smaller plants closer to waste sources.

They accepted that the size and scale of the scheme is a major drawback, despite proposed landscaping, and attached substantial weight to its visual impact. But they took the view that the plant would benefit the local economy, citing the 320 construction jobs, 80 permanent jobs and increased demand for local goods and services it is expected to create. A trust fund and a subsidy for local residents' electricity bills would also have community benefits, they decided. They found no firm evidence that the area's business and tourism prospects would be significantly harmed.

The proposal would comply with the government's overarching national policy statement (NPS) EN-1 on energy policy and NPS EN-3 on renewable energy, the commissioners decided. They concluded that none of the scheme's adverse impacts, including the compulsory acquisition of land and rights, would outweigh its benefits either individually or taken together.

Commissioners: Paul Hudson, Andrew Phillipson, Emrys Parry; Examination


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