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Incinerator refused at Lock Street appeal

On the 3rd of August 2015 a Planning Inspector decided to refuse planning permission for a circa 140ktpa gasification-type incinerator proposed for Lock Street (appeal ref 2224529). This decision has a fair amount of history, providing both an interesting case study and a useful precedent for other facilities with unsubstantiated R1 and carbon claims.

The Decision Notice stated, amongst other things, that:

  • “The Development Plan for the area includes the Merseyside and Halton Joint Waste Plan (WP) 2013. Whilst it was prepared and adopted before the National Policy for Waste was published (2014), the relevant policies are consistent with that document and I should give them full weight. Among other things, Policy WM12 requires proposals for waste management development to be accompanied by an assessment of the short, medium and long term, as well as cumulative impacts, of the proposal on its neighbours and the surrounding environment, in terms of the overall sustainability of the proposal, including carbon and energy management performance. This approach is supported by government policy, which expects waste disposal facilities not to prejudice the movement of waste up the waste hierarchy and to contribute to waste recovery rather than disposal, a principle advanced in the Waste Framework Directive.” (Paragraphs 12 and 13)
  • “…the National Planning Policy for Waste (NPPfW) expects applicants to demonstrate the quantitative or market need for new waste management facilities where proposals are not consistent with an up to date LP [Local Plan]. I conclude that the overall need for the proposal has not been clearly demonstrated.” (Paragraph 26)
  • “National Planning policy for Waste (NPPfW) expects applicants to demonstrate that waste disposal facilities, not in line with the LP, will not undermine the objectives of the LP by prejudicing the movement of waste up the Waste Hierarchy. The WP has the vision of waste as a resource that is moved up the Waste Hierarchy and an objective of all new waste management facilities contributing to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Energy from Waste [Energy from Waste, a guide to the debate, 2014] points out that such waste infrastructure has a long life (normally 20-30 years) and that steps should be taken at the start to ensure that systems drive waste up the Waste Hierarchy and do not constrain it. In consequence new infrastructure, particularly where there is not clear evidence of a need for additional capacity, needs to contribute to recovery and not disposal. It seeks to maximise the benefits of energy generation and points out that to comply with the Waste Framework Directive the process needs to constitute recovery. The WP policies that require proposals to demonstrate that facilities would not prejudice the movement of waste up the waste hierarchy and would contribute to waste recovery rather than disposal are clearly in accordance with this advice. Whilst the attainment of R1 status is not a mandatory process by which planning proposals should be considered, it is nevertheless a method of demonstrating whether or not a proposal is recovery or disposal. In certain circumstances generating electrical energy from waste can contribute to carbon emissions to a greater extent than depositing the same material as landfill. It is therefore not a simple exercise to demonstrate that an EfW will have a positive effect on overall carbon emissions…” (Paragraphs 27 – 30)
  • “…the Appellant has not convincingly demonstrated that the carbon credentials of the proposal are likely to be such that I should have confidence in considering it as a waste recovery facility. Were the proposal to be a waste disposal facility, then the benefits of the proposal that have been identified do not outweigh the harm to local, National and European policy that seeks to ensure that waste treatment is driven up the waste hierarchy. The proposal is contrary to WP Policies WM12 and WM13. None of the other material considerations referred to and in favour of the proposal, are sufficient to outweigh the presumption in favour of determining planning applications in accordance with the Development Plan. I therefore conclude that the EfW aspect of the proposal should be dismissed.” (Paragraph 46)

The Waste to Energy BOS(TM) System of gasification was spectacularly unsuccessful in Dargavel, Scotland, and when SEPA revoked the facility’s environmental permit SEPA noted that: “The Operator submitted a final commissioning report on 30 July 2013 which provided confirmation of the predicted efficiency of energy recovery at this site. The predicted figure of ~3% is significantly below what was expected. After >4 years of commissioning, SEPA have assessed that the level of the energy recovery likely to be achieved by the plant in its current configuration is considerably lower than the levels which could be considered a ‘high level of energy efficiency'” (see SEPA Site Status Report).

Around the same time, a planning application was submitted in May 2013 by Mr. Brian Moore of Waste to Energy (NW) Ltd for Lock Street in St. Helens, which is the application that has just been refused. The proposal was for a facility which would also have used a Batch Oxidation System (BOS TM), consisting of batch gasification and syngas combustion processes.

UKWIN raised a number of questions regarding the uncertainty of the technology proposed for Lock Street and its R1 and carbon credentials, and the lack of detail provided by the applicant. UKWIN’s objection was joined by various expressions of concern from local residents. This was followed by several delays where the Applicant provided further information, but this information ended up raising more questions than answers.

St. Helens’ Council utilised the services Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service (MEAS) to help them process the application, and UKWIN had to spend a lot of time correcting mistakes in the Officer’s Report for the Planning Committee which originated either from the Applicant (which MEAS had not identified), or from MEAS themselves.

For example, MEAS erroneously claimed that: “…the Government was required to ensure all EfW facilities were R1 Recovery facilities by 2008, so it is highly unlikely that the Environment Agency would grant an Environmental Permit for anything but an R1 Recovery EfW facility at this point in time…”, and we had to quickly obtain confirmation from the EA that: “There is no requirement for MWI to be R1 by 2008” and that: “The granting of an environmental permit is not dependent on R1 being designated”, which we then passed onto the Planning Officer.

This highlights the importance of keeping an eye on, and challenging, Planning Officers’ Committee Reports, which are usually put up on council websites one week prior to the associated Planning Committee meeting, and on being sceptical regarding statements made by consultancies that lack proper citation.

At the Planning Committee meeting local residents gave “passionate speeches in objection to Waste to Energy NW Ltd’s proposals”, including local resident Ronnie Waugh who stated that “The applicant has failed to provide evidence about the expected carbon emissions and there are solid grounds for refusal” (see local press article). On the other side, applicant Brian Moore said at the time that “to refuse it would be forlorn”, but refuse it they did and forlorn it wasn’t.

Whilst the Planning Officer and consultants MEAS decided to give the Applicant the benefit of the doubt in various instances, the Planning Committee took a more cautious approach and refused planning consent in a unanimous decision in March 2014. This decision was appealed, and the Inspector’s decision to dismiss the appeal for the incinerator fully vindicates the approach adopted by the Committee.

During the hearing UKWIN provided a large amount of evidence, and local resident Ronnie Waugh helped ensure that this was given the attention that it deserved. This was therefore a great example of collaboration between UKWIN and its members. The decision itself was delayed, in part to allow the applicant to provide yet more information, but obviously this information proved insufficient.

In relation to the recently refused application, Companies House records list Brian Moore as Director, Management Consultant and 50% owner, and Mr Stuart Parrin is listed as Tax Consultant, 50% Owner and Company Secretary. However, it is not clear what their source of investment is.

In 2013 it was stated in the applicant’s exhibition pack that: “Waste to Energy (NW) Ltd are a local enterprise company set up by the Financial Investors who are in the process of negotiating the purchase of the Merton Street site and the proposed development site in Lock Street. Until planning approval is obtained they cannot release the name of the major investment company. Upon obtaining planning approval there will be a statement which also advises of the multi million pound investment for business growth in St Helen’s on the proposed development site…”.

Whilst planning permission was refused for the incinerator, permission was granted for the relocation of the existing MRF, so it is possible that the identity of the shy investment company will now be revealed, but we haven’t heard anything yet.

It may also be worth noting that this was not the first application made for this site. In December 2011 Centralgrange Environmental Waste Ltd (CEW) submitted an application for a Batch Oxidation Gasification incinerator on the Former Ravenhead Glass Warehouse, Lock Street. Planning permission for the CEW application was refused by St Helens Council on 2nd May 2012 and was not appealed (see decision notice). At the time Stuart Parrin was company secretary and Brian Moore was a former director. Another proposal on the same site submitted by Organic Waste Management (St Helens) Ltd proposal on the same site, which was refused in September 2012.

Further reading:

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