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Twinwoods Incinerator Rejected by Pickles

The 120,000 tonne gasification-type incinerator proposed for the Twinwoods Business Park in Milton Ernest, Bedfordshire has been refused planning permission by the Secretary of State Eric Pickles

Biogen were proposing the facility for “commercial and industrial, construction and demolition and potentially municipal waste”. Planning permission was refused twice by the local authority, but the applicant appealed the first refusal.

The inquiry took place in May 2011 but the decision was delayed until February 2012 to take account of the IPC decision for Rookery Pit near Stewartby where a ~600,000 tonne incinerator was approved (although the compulsory purchase element is still going through parliament).

Quotes from the decision letter and commentary are provided below.

As this was a recovered appeal the decision was made by the Secretary of State and the Inspector merely gave a recommendation, which was not followed:

The Inspector recommended that the appeal be allowed subject to conditions. For the reasons given below, the Secretary of State disagrees with the Inspector’s recommendation. The Secretary of State therefore dismisses the appeal and refuses planning permission…

Prematurity has had a tough time historically, but several recent housing decisions by the Secretary of State seemed to go against that trend. In this instance, it seems that the prematurity argument was accepted in relation to the emerging Waste Core Strategy (WCS) but would not have been if Rookery Pit had not been approved:

18. Had the Rookery Pit proposal not been granted DC, then the Secretary of State would have agreed with the Inspector’s assessment of prematurity as set out in IR12.9-12.11. However, given this consent for the Rookery Pit proposal, and the likely submission of the WCS for examination scheduled for later this year, the Secretary of State considers that granting permission for this sizeable ERF on a site that is not a preferred site is premature ahead of the emerging WCS. In his opinion, it would be more appropriate to assess the adequacy or otherwise of the unallocated site before him by way of the WCS, as he believes to do otherwise would prejudice the emerging WCS by predetermining decisions about the scale, location or phasing of new development. The Secretary of State sees that as being contrary to the guidance in paragraph 17 of The Planning System: General Principles.

The Secretary of State and Biogen’s witness both seem to acknowledge the possibility of incineration overcapacity:

Clearly the implications of the Rookery South DC for the appeal proposal are significant in terms of capacity and location of all potential future waste provision, including those on a much smaller scale. In assessing the impact of this additional capacity the Secretary of State is mindful of the fact that the appellant’s witness has acknowledged that an approval to both the Rookery Pit and the appeal proposals would represent an excess of capacity (IR6.33). The Secretary of State therefore considers that, notwithstanding the possibility of a temporary gap between the completion of the proposal before him and Rookery Pit, there is no urgency to identify further waste provision in the plan area.

Not relevant to this application, the Secretary of State has opened up the potential for other new proposals to potentially have geographical restrictions on waste input. This seems to go against the position advanced in the 2009 Eastcroft Decision by then Labour Secretary of State Hazel Blears which incinerator proponents have been relying upon to say that such conditions should not be imposed:

The Secretary of State does not agree with the Inspector that a planning condition seeking to restrict the source of waste would necessarily fail to meet the tests of Circular 11/95 IR12.35). He notes that such conditions have been imposed in the past and sees no reason why they should not in the future, were they couched effectively, deemed appropriate, and in line with relevant policies and guidance.

Congratulations to the Twinwoods Action Group and all those who helped in this campaign. The applicant have 6 weeks from the date of the decision for a s288 challenge and 3 months for a judicial review, but hopefully they will pursue true zero waste instead.

Media coverage of the decision:

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