Incinerator approved as compliant with national policy

The adverse local effects of a waste incinerator proposed in south-east London are outweighed by an established urgent need for electricity generating infrastructure, the government has decided.

The applicants sought development consent under the Planning Act 2008 for an energy-from-waste recovery facility, an anaerobic digestion plant, enabling infrastructure for combined heat and power, solar panels, a battery storage facility and associated development on land adjacent to an existing energy-from-waste station. There had been significant local opposition from residents and MPs to having another incinerator in the same location, with opponents citing a lack of need and adverse impacts on air quality.

The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy noted that the national policy statements on energy and renewable energy infrastructure indicate that energy from waste plays an important role in meeting the UK’s energy needs and that recovery of energy from the combustion of waste forms an important element of waste management strategies. 

Objectors claimed that there was no justification for new energy-from-waste capacity in London because projections for the availability of fuel stock showed that insufficient residual waste would be available for processing over the lifetime of the development. They argued that this would make the development a disincentive to waste prevention and improvement of recycling rates and result in unnecessary incineration of recyclable and reusable waste, in conflict with the waste hierarchy.

But the secretary of state agreed with the examiner that only waste that cannot be reused or recycled with less environmental impact and would otherwise go to landfill should be used for energy recovery, in line with energy policy advice. In his view, this objection was overcome by the appellants’ willingness to accept conditions ensuring maintenance of the waste hierarchy priority order by minimising recyclable and reusable waste.

The secretary of state also agreed with his examiner that the issue of whether the volume of waste fuel stock available would allow the applicants to use the total capacity of the development was a commercial matter and was not related to need for the development. He found no adverse effects on air quality, noting that no objections had been received from Natural England or Public Health England. Adverse effects on townscape, landscape and traffic were outweighed by the urgent need for the development as part of the transition to a low-carbon economy, he concluded.

Examiner: Jonathan Green; Examination

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