MARCH/APRIL 2010

INTRODUCTION

If we believe that climate change is a serious threat to our planet, we can’t avoid the fact that CO2 is a major contributor to that threat. It seems preposterous that our Council should be proposing and supporting a technology – incineration – that actually adds to CO2 emissions and are still seriously considering locking us into a 25 year contract based on this outdated technology.

In an ideal, environmentally friendly, world, we would all shop locally from local organic producers, giving rise to easily recyclable – or no – packaging; we would all live in carbon neutral houses, travel in the most fuel-efficient way etc. And these are things we can all fight for at any time.

However, in life, as in politics, it makes sense to choose your battles. SCAI feels that the battle worth fighting right now is against incineration – per se not just in Oxfordshire.

ONGOING BATTLE AGAINST INCINERATION

This is still a live issue and threat to the Oxfordshire community, from the points of view of both efficiency and cost. We need to continue to show a strong commitment to ridding our county of the threat of an incinerator. This is a long-haul campaign! Many thanks to all of you for your ongoing support of the SCAI campaign and your actions to keep this issue in the public arena.

BACKGROUND & SUMMARY

As a result of a welcomed EU Directive to reduce landfill input by 75%, our County Council’s reaction to heavy fines for non-compliance with the Directive is to have put forward the idea of an incinerator as the only solution.

This arose five years ago and as our local MP, Ed Vaizey, has pointed out, technology has moved on since then and there are now many other alternatives that could be considered from the points of view of both cost (apparently important to the OCC) and efficiency (important to our communities now and to future generations).

Therefore, the main thrust of our campaign is to get the OCC to consider the alternatives available today – many of which are technologies that are in the process of being improved – rather than incineration, which in the light of these emerging alternatives is outdated and least efficient.

SUGGESTED ACTIONS:

Please send your views to Joanna Simons, Chief Executive, Oxford County Council, 01865 815330 joanna.simons@oxfordshire.gov.uk

POINTS TO MAKE INCLUDE:

  • A technology neutral choice, the council’s stated policy, cannot be made from a list with only one technology on it.
  • The bids were all for the same method of disposal because the recycling target for 2020 was set too low at 55 per cent.
  • To make a technology neutral choice, the council should have raised the recycling target, to around 75 per cent, when they would have received bids with a full choice of technologies. At this rate of recycling, incineration no longer has greater economy of scale and becomes the least sensible, on non-financial criteria, of a wide range of similarly priced options.
  • The county council has failed to implement its policy of technology neutrality and in doing so tied us all in to a recycling target that is too low for the next 25 years, the length of the incinerator contract.
  • They are in direct conflict with the policy of the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership to progress towards increasing waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
  • They are also in direct conflict with a widespread desire for a waste economy that is both sustainable and properly respectful of future generations.
  • If we believe (as is generally accepted) that climate change is a serious threat to our planet, we can’t avoid the fact that CO2 is a major contributor to that threat. It seems preposterous that our Council should be proposing and supporting a technology that adds to CO2 emissions.

UPDATE ON THE PROCESS

Planning permission for Viridor to build an incinerator in Ardley was rejected in October. They are planning to make an appeal against this decision in July.

The applicant (Viridor in Ardley) needs to achieve two things –

  1. 1. planning permission AND 2. an environmental permit.

  1. Having been refused planning permission for an incinerator in Ardley by the OCC planning committee last October, Viridor is appealing this decision. The date for this appeal is currently July. Not only does Viridor have to submit new evidence in favour of building an incinerator BUT ALSO OCC has to demonstrate a strong defence of its planning committee’s decision to refuse permission.

Once the composition of the planning committee has been confirmed, we will circulate their names and contact details.

  1. Although the Environment Agency makes much of their role as purely a consultee with little influence to block applications, we feel that this is disingenuous, and they could wield more power through their own internal processes. For example, the more vigorous they make the modelling conditions for applicants (i.e., what the applicant needs to show that they have taken into account) the more likely the process will become too stringent and/or too expensive for the applicant to fulfil. And therefore it follows that the applicant may withdraw.

The EA has now told Viridor it must supply further information about the impact on air quality and human health before it will consider issuing a crucial environmental permit to enable it to go ahead. Viridor must also provide details about the potential impact on wildlife and drainage.

Environment Agency area manager Simon Hughes said: “We have asked the applicant to submit further information as the application was lacking in detail in a number of areas. Some of these areas had been raised by local communities through the meetings we have held with them, and in representations made during consultation. Local people have an important role to play in these proposals and we will continue to involve them.”

SUGGESTED ACTIONS:

In order to ensure more stringent conditions being set by the EA, we should all express directly to the EA, our expectations that they will act to protect and improve the environment and promote sustainable development (including how we deal with waste).

Contact senior members of the Environment Agency (details below) to make them aware of our campaign and concerns:

The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Hilary.Benn@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Minister of State (Minister for Food, Farming and Environment) and Environment Agency fitzpatrickj@parliament.uk

Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Marine and Natural Environment) irrancadaviesh@parliament.uk

Dan Norris MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Rural Affairs and Environment) dan@dannorris.org.uk

Paul Leinster, Chief Executive, Environment Agency

Rio House, Waterside Drive, Aztec West, Almondsbury, Bristol, BS32 4UD

Lord Chris Smith, Chairman, Environment Agency

Millbank Tower, 25th. Floor, 21/24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4XL

Howard Davidson, Regional Director, Environment Agency

Thames Regional Office, Kings Meadow House, Kings Meadow Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8DQ

Simon Hughes, Area Manager, Environment Agency

Red Kite House, Howbery Business Park, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BD

POINTS TO MAKE INCLUDE:

  • Although the EA has now requested further information from Viridor, this is a year after the application was lodged and is largely as a result of lobbying from local communities.
  • So, there is frustration at the apparent lack of urgency and determination shown by the Environment Agency with regard to the threat of incineration in Oxfordshire.
  • The EA has real power to scrutinise any proposed scheme, and set conditions, based upon the best scientific evidence available – please use it.
  • You are the people who are there to conserve what is precious and defend communities and ecosystems from rubbish solutions (excuse the pun).
  • Show some backbone in delivering the promises stated on the EA website:

“It’s our job to look after your environment and make it a better place”

“Our principal aims are to protect and improve the environment, and to promote sustainable development”

  • If Viridor is made to act now and satisfy stringent guidelines set by the EA, then at least we can take some comfort that these website statements actually mean something.
  • Simon Hughes has said: “Some of these areas had been raised by local communities through the meetings we have held with them, and in representations made during consultation. Local people have an important role to play in these proposals and we will continue to involve them.” So please demonstrate that you are listening to these further representations from local people.

Many thanks to all those of you who continue to write to our local papers on this issue and take the time to post comments to relevant articles. If you would like any further details on how to contact the press and participate in our local media campaigns – or if you have any ideas for a new angle or article, please get in touch.

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