LetsRecycle are reporting that Staffordshire County Council’s plans to develop waste incineration facility “have suffered a setback” as members of South Staffordshire District Council recommended further investigation into issues surrounding the project. There is an existing incinerator in Hanford in Stoke-on-Trent focussed on North Staffordshire and it is Staffordshire County Council’s stated intention that the proposed facility at Four Ashes would “handle household waste for the rest of the County and beyond”.

Issues of concern to the Council include traffic, construction and impact on visual amenities of adjacent green belt land.

Traffic
It is proposed that the waste burner would be accessed off the A5 by all HGV’s and commercial vehicles accessing the site. Only private cars (i.e. employees / visitors) would be permitted to access the facility via the A449. It is also proposed to carry out improvements to the junction with the A5 and Vicarage Road to improve access to the site. District Councillors are calling for the submission of a routing agreement for vehicles accessing the proposed site that includes alternative routes for vehicles accessing the facility if the A449/A5 is closed/obstructed.

Impact on Visual Amenities of Adjacent Green Belt
Whilst the site itself is not located within the Green Belt, due to the size and scale of the proposed development it would clearly be visible from the surrounding open countryside/Green Belt. The proposed stack would be between 87m and 101m high and the site is bounded to the north, east and south by the Green Belt. Paragraph 3.15 of PPG2 (Green Belts) directs that: The visual amenities of the Green Belt should not be injured by proposals for development within or conspicuous from the Green Belt which, although they would not prejudice the purposes of including land in Green Belts, might be visually detrimental by reason of their siting, materials or design.

According to the District Council’s report:

This guidance therefore clearly states that development proposals, which are not located on Green Belt land but are clearly visible from Green Belt land can prejudice the visual amenities of the Green Belt. The proposed incineration facility due to its extensive scale, bulk, massing and height would clearly introduce a highly prominent and visually intrusive feature which would clearly harm the visual amenities of the adjacent Green Belt. Significant weight therefore needs to be given in the determination of this case with regards to the potential visual harm of the development on the Green Belt and weighed against the potential benefits which the scheme would bring.

The District Council requests that the County Council should consider the full impact of the development on the visual amenities of the Green Belt when determining the application as no reference has been made to Paragraph 3.15 of PPG2 in the Planning Statement submitted with the application.

PLM comments:

The basic fact is, that due to the size and massing of the building (and the height of the stack) and despite what is stated in parts of the Environmental Assessment, it will not be possible to successfully integrate the development into the landscape. The proposed site layout does not sufficiently provide for landscape treatment although this would be largely irrelevant anyway as it would have no mitigation benefits other than to provide a slightly ‘softer’ environment in the immediate area around the building.

Community Opposition

Campaign group Staffordshire Against INcineration (S.A.IN) and West Midlands Friends of the Earth have objected to the proposal (SS.08/10/636W), on the basis that:

  • The waste will be hauled in from a large area – undermining the ‘proximity principle’.
  • The incinerator will cause avoidable emissions and will not reduce climate emissions as much as alternatives.
  • The scale and expected life of the facility is such that it will displace recycling and waste minimisation.
  • The energy recovered from the waste is lower than the energy savings from recycling and waste reduction. This relative waste of energy also contributes to climate change.
  • The structure is out of scale and character with the surrounding area.
  • The over-capacity and inefficiency of the incinerator is not compatible with a region living within its environmental limits.
  • The application may not be in accordance with the South Staffordshire District Council Local Plan

Campaigners also note:

In 2006, the latest year that complete data is available from the Environment Protection Agency, Staffordshire County Council’s Hanford incinerator breached it’s emission limits 40 times. In February 2007 the operators received a written warning that they had been in breach of their Pollution Prevention and Control permit as a result of 9 nine days of continually exceeding their NOx emission level. Subsequently, in April 2007 they were served with an enforcement notice for being in contravention of the permit. The enforcement notice stated that “The Management system is inadequately resourced and is not being implemented at this site”.

Also in February 2007, in response to the NOx problems MES Environmental sent a letter to the Environment Agency admitting to problems with the monitoring equipment, and it’s software. In July 2007 another letter was sent to the environment agency about more software problems and drawing attention to an excess of mercury in the test for the first quarter of 2007, and then an excess of metals in the test for the second quarter. Problems like these are not unique to Hanford. In 2006 the incinerator at Dudley had numerous equipment failures, resulting in over 50 emission breaches, and not to be outdone, Wolverhampton’s incinerator had more than 50 breaches as well.

Also, see FoE’s Objection to Four Ashes Incinerator Planning Application

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