Jenrick refuses Cambridgeshire energy-from-waste plant on heritage grounds

The housing secretary has refused plans for an energy-from waste facility in Cambridgeshire, after concluding that the scheme's benefits would not outweigh harm to a local scheduled ancient monument.

Part of the Denny Abbey complex (pic: John Sutton, Geograph)
Part of the Denny Abbey complex (pic: John Sutton, Geograph)

Infrastructure firm Amery had applied to Cambridgeshire County Council for permission to build the plant at the existing Waterbeach Waste Management Park, north of the village of Waterbeach.

The proposals included the erection of an energy-from-waste facility to treat up to 250,000 tonnes of residual waste per annum, air-cooled condensers and associated infrastructure, including the development of an internal access road.

Following an appeal, the plans were recovered by the secretary of state for his own determination.

According to a decision letter issued on behalf of the minister this week, Jenrick has concluded, in line with the inspector's recommendation, that the plans should be refused.

In one area of disagreement with the inspector, Jenrick found that the direct and indirect economic benefits of the scheme should carry more weight in favour than suggested by the inspector.

Jenrick concluded that the benefits of the scheme relating to employment and the economy should attract "moderate weight". The inspector had given these "slight weight".

However, both the inspector and Jenrick agreed that the scheme's "less than substantial" harm to the significance of Denny Abbey Complex Scheduled Ancient Monument would not be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal.

The minister agreed with his inspector that the harm to the setting of the grade I listed church at the abbey complex was at the "higher end" of the less than substantial scale in the National Planning Framework's (NPPF's) heritage balance and this should be given "substantial weight". 

The NPPF says that, where a development proposal will lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal.

Jenrick agreed with the inspector that heritage mitigation benefits proposed by the appellant for the abbey complex attracted only slight weight as benefits.

In terms of the other benefits of the proposal, the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that the greenhouse gas and climate change benefits, employment and economic benefits and waste management benefits all attracted "moderate weight".

But the letter advised that, even when considered cumulatively, these benefits were not sufficient to outweigh the identified harms to the significance of the abbey complex.

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