Join or start a local anti-incineration campaign
If you are concerned about an actual or potential proposal for a waste incinerator then visit https://ukwin.org.uk/incinerators/ to see if there is already an active local campaign.
No local anti-incineration group campaigning in your area? UKWIN can help you set one up! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and guidance, and we might also be able to put you in touch with other local residents who have contacted us in the past (or we can pass along your e-mail address to campaigners who will contact you).
Advice and guidance for local campaigners
Working together with UKWIN, local anti-incineration campaigners have managed to stop around 70 proposed incinerators. Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ path to success, there are many good ideas from which you can take inspiration. Click on the topic to read our advice and guidance.
- You don’t need to complete any paperwork to start a local campaign, you can just start one. A campaign is simply a group of people working towards a common purpose such as opposing an incinerator proposal. You can pick a ‘catchy’ name and form a committee if you wish, but some campaigns start primarily as a Facebook group. Some campaigns start with a well-advertised public meeting at a village hall, some are off-shoots of a local Parish Council, and some begin with a collection of local residents meeting at the local pub to discuss how to raise local awareness of the proposal and frame their planning objections. The important thing is to make a start, build trust, and remain welcoming to those who want to support the campaign, encouraging them to join in to help out where they can.
- Use social media to attract people who can help with aspects of the campaign, e.g. using Twitter accounts, Facebook groups and Facebook pages.
- Write a short press release to let people know about your campaign, including contact details and/or information about your website or social media pages.
- Hold one or more public meetings to raise awareness, find volunteers and get people involved.
- Find allies with whom to work, such as local Friends of the Earth groups, Zero Waste campaigns and climate action groups.
- Read the Friends of the Earth and other guides (see ‘Further reading’ below) for really useful guidance about starting and running a campaign. The guides linked to below will take you from organising volunteers into teams (e.g. research, leafletting, social media), establishing a local presence (e.g. website, social media, press release), building support and raising awareness (e.g. distribute leaflets, hold public meetings, talk on local radio), and reaching out to councillors and MPs. See UKWIN advice below for how to take part in democratic processes (e.g. objecting to planning applications).
- Friends of the Earth guide on the basics of organising an anti-incineration campaign (2000)
- Friends of the Earth guide to recruiting members
- Friends of the Earth guide to social media
- Friends of the Earth guide on writing a press release
- Friends of the Earth guide to keeping your members engaged
- Friends of the Earth guide to finding allies
- Friends of the Earth guide to successful community campaigns (2000)
- Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s Local Campaigns Guide
- Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s Fundraising Guide
- Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution
- Lightful best practice guides for social media
- Arguments against incineration and associated source material are available from Why UKWIN Opposes Incineration.
- Formulate your questions, and start researching and asking around to find the answers. Be sure to keep a record of the sources of your answers, and save copies of documents that you may wish to rely upon.
- Danger: Greenwash ahead! Don’t believe unverified claims made by proponents of waste incineration. Ask for the evidence they use to support their statements, and read these sources carefully and critically.
- Exercise your right to access information held by Councils (even when that information has not been published on their website). See ‘Further reading’ section below for more on your rights to accessing information held by public bodies such as Councils under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). If the Council refuses your information request, you must first ask for an ‘Internal Review’ and if that review is unsuccessful then you can complain (appeal) to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). If you want responses to your information requests to be made public then you can submit them via the What Do They Know website.
- Councils will often put information about planning applications (and pre-application requests for the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment) and their local planning policies on the Council website. See sections below to learn about how to get involved in these processes.
- You may wish to research the following:
- The Applicant / Operator – Who is proposing the facility? What is their track record?
- Feedstock (waste to be burned)– What will the incinerator be burning for its 25+ years of operation? Where will that waste be coming from? Who is supplying it? How much of it is recyclable? How much of it will be fossil fuels such as plastics?
- Finance – Who is funding the facility? How would it be paid for? How would it deliver a return on investment? What would the impact of an incineration tax be on their business model? Is the scheme linked to a waste management contract entered into with one or more councils, if so what are the terms of the contract and how can the council cancel the contract?
- Land – Who owns the land? What are the terms of the lease? What leverage do the landowners have to tell the operator to drop the project?
- Planning – Do they already have planning permission? Have they submitted a planning application or taken part in pre-application discussions? If planning permission has been granted, what are the conditions that accompany that permission? Have these planning conditions been discharged? Might the developer be in breach of any of these planning conditions, and if so is the Council’s Enforcement Officer taking enforcement action?
- Environmental Permit – Do they already have an Environmental Permit? Have they applied for one yet? Are there any known areas of particular sensitivity, e.g. nearby Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)?
- Nuisance – If the facility exist, do you know the procedures for recording and reporting nuisances (noise, odours, vermin, flies, etc.)?
- Most planning applications begin with pre-application discussions between the waste company and a Planning Officer at the relevant Waste Planning Authority (e.g. the County Council in two-tier authorities). Citizens are entitled to ask whether or not pre-application discussions have taken place.
- In many instances, before a planning application for a waste incinerator is submitted the applicant requests a ‘Screening Opinion’ (to establish whether or not they need to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment) followed by a ‘Scoping Opinion’ (to establish what topics and issues would need to be addressed by an Environmental Impact Assessment).
- Whether or not the Scoping and Screening opinions are published on the Council’s website, these are public documents that can be requested from the Council (see ‘Research and fact-finding’, above). You can also request the responses from Statutory Consultees to any Scoping Requests.
- Scoping Opinions and associated consultation responses can sometimes provide an early indication of controversial aspects of the proposal, e.g. the potential for an incinerator to harm a nearby Nature Reserve.
- Planning applications can take months or sometimes years to be decided. In many cases there is a published deadline for responses, but in reality in most cases responses can be made any time up to the day of the relevant Planning Committee meeting where the application is discussed. If you are unsure about deadlines then it is useful to contact the relevant Planning Officer for confirmation. You are not limited to a single objection, so if you realise you missed something or if new information becomes available then you can make a further submission.
- The law requires that planning applications are determined on the basis of the Local Plan unless other material planning considerations indicate otherwise. This means that it is useful to know what is in the Local Plan (including the local Waste Plan / Waste Strategy) and in national planning guidance, as well as what are considered ‘material considerations’ (e.g. issues of highway safety or traffic congestion, harm to the setting of listed building or heritage assets, conflicts with Local and National Government plans and policies, harm to local nature sites, etc.).
- In circumstances where planning applications and accompanying submissions are found to be inadequate with respect to the information on the environmental effects of the development (e.g. climate change impacts) then the Council can and should seek further information from the developer. This is known as a ‘Regulation 22’ request because it relates to the powers under regulation 22(1) of the The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011.
- The Council usually publishes a report from the Planning Officer a week before the Planning Committee meeting which summarises the planning application and the associated consultation submissions alongside the Officer’s recommendations to the Planning Committee. This report may contains various errors and omissions, and so it is not unusual for anti-incineration campaigners to write to the Officer and Planning Committee members to highlight these deficiencies in advance of the Planning Committee meeting. The Council often do not publicise the release of the Committee Report, but it usually appears as part of the information relating to the Committee meeting of that date. The Committee Report is sometimes, but not always, also published on the Council’s page for the specific application as part of their Planning Applications Portal.
- When determining planning applications the Planning Committee need to carefully consider the Officer’s recommendations, but they are not obliged to follow the Officer’s recommendations as it is ultimately the Committee’s decision based on their own judgement. It is not uncommon for Officer’s to recommend approval and for Councillors to nevertheless vote to refuse planning permission or to defer the decision until after additional information has been provided by the Applicant. When planning permission is refused, reasons need to be given the Applicant regarding the grounds of refusal, e.g. conflict with local or national planning policies.
- It is often the case that there is an opportunity for members of the public (and local Councillors who are not determining the application) to speak at the Planning Committee meeting if they ask to do so in advance. Every Council has their own rules for this, so it is important to understand what they are. There can often be restrictions on the number of speakers and how long they are allowed to talk, but in some cases this can be waived or loosened for proposals that are especially controversial (or of ‘high public interest’).
- While the applicant have an automatic right of appeal, that is not the case for the community. If you want the application to go to a planning inquiry in the event that the Committee decide to vote in favour of the application then you need to ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to use their power of ‘call-in’. The Secretary of state cannot use this power once a Decision Notice is issued, so it is usually a good idea to request call-in at least a fortnight before the Planning Committee meeting. Call-in requests are made via the Planning Casework Unit who can be contacted via email@example.com or 0303 444 8050 – it is a good idea to provide them with the planning application reference number, the name and contact details of the relevant Planning Officer, the date of the Planning Committee meeting, and the reason why the proposal raises issues of more than local importance.
Who decides the planning application when it goes to a public inquiry? A developer can appeal a refusal of planning permission by a Planning Committee (or a failure to decide the application within the relevant time limit) by taking their planning application to an appeal within 6 months of the refusal (and when appealed, it is usually at the end of this period). The decision is then made by a Planning Inspector. In some cases, the Secretary of State (for Housing, Communities and Local Government) ‘recovers’ the appeal, and in such cases the Inspector writes a report with a recommendation (either to dismiss the appeal (i.e. uphold the decision to refuse planning permission) or to grant planning permission), and the Secretary of State then makes the ultimate decision. If it is a ‘call-in’ inquiry (e.g. in a circumstance where the Planning Committee voted to approve, but the Secretary of State called the application in for their determination) then, as with ‘recovered’ appeals, the ultimate decision will be made by the Secretary of State.
- Do I need to re-send my objection? No. All of the original submissions should be passed on to the Planning Inspectorate by the Waste Planning Authority and these ‘historic’ objections will be taken into account by the Planning Inspector.
- Does an inquiry provide an opportunity to complain about the Council’s handling of the application or to call for changes to Government policy? No. Planning inquiries focus only on the merits and demerits of the proposal, and are not the appropriate forum either to complain about the Council’s handing of the planning application or to call for changes in Government policy. Those wishing to register their concerns about the Council’s handing of a planning application can do so via the Council’s complaints procedures and then, if not satisfied, by complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman.
- How can I take part in the planning inquiry? Planning inquiries, also known as public inquiries, are open to the public and anyone can attend. Objectors can send written submissions to the Planning Inspectorate within the deadlines set by the Planning Inspector. Submissions made after the deadline are only accepted at the discretion of the Planning Inspector and are usually only accepted if the new evidence could not have been submitted at an earlier date, e.g. where a relevant study has only just been published. In addition to attending as a member of the public, anti-incineration campaign groups and other organisations may wish to be considered an ‘Interested Party’ to the inquiry. In addition to attending, Interested Parties may also give evidence at the inquiry. Those who wish to secure a greater status than that of ‘Interested Party’ can request to be granted ‘Rule 6’ status, which is equivalent to status the Council’s and the Applicant’s/Appellant’s status. The extent to which Interested Parties will be able to deliver oral evidence, and to ask questions of the other side’s witnesses, is a matter of discretion for the Planning Inspector. Some groups raise funds and pay for experts to supply evidence to the inquiry. Such expert evidence tends to be afforded greater weight than evidence from non-experts.
- Is evidence given by the community afforded equal weight to the evidence given by professional experts? All evidence is taken into account, but evidence is generally given greater weight when (a) given by an expert witness (someone with relevant qualifications and/or experience), and (b) subject to cross-examination. Evidence from Rule 6 Parties is always open to cross-examination, and evidence given by Interested Parties who appear at the inquiry is often open to questioning from the other side. Evidence which has not been ‘tested’ and which is given by non-experts usually carries less weight, but it could still be useful, for example to help provide the Inspector with lines of questioning for the Applicant’s witnesses (e.g. about local traffic issues that the Inspector may otherwise have overlooked) or to advance a line of argument that stands on its own without the need for an expert to speak to it (e.g. about the correct interpretation of planning policy).
- Should my group ask to be granted Rule 6 status? As an imprecise rule of thumb, we would say that being a Rule 6 Party would only be appropriate for:
- Groups with at least one person who is familiar with both the planning application and the planning system (with sufficient time to work on inquiry preparations, etc. at least on a part-time basis), combined with previous experience of participating in a planning inquiry, alongside a budget of around £30k+ to pay for expert witnesses and an advocate (or someone who can act as both);
- Groups with at least two people who are very familiar with the planning application and the planning system and the subject area about which they intend to provide evidence, all of whom can work on the inquiry as if it were a full time job, with at least one who would be relaxed giving evidence and being subject to cross-examination, and also around £10k+ to pay for support from an experienced environmental/planning consultancy to help from behind the scenes; or
- Groups with at least one person reasonably familiar with the planning system and the planning application and sufficient time to work on it as if it were a full time job, combined with the support of a very helpful Local Planning Authority willing and able to provide necessary support and guidance to cover the resource gap.
…If a group does not meet fit any of the above descriptions then our expectation would be that the group cannot be sufficiently confident that it would have the resources to meet the expectations and obligations that come with being a Rule 6 party.
- Is this like a court case, where you have to pay the other side’s costs if you lose? No, the general rule is that all parties should pay their own costs. Whilst there is the ability for costs to be awarded in the event that a party has behaved unreasonably, the Planning Inspectorate stated in September 2019 that: “The Planning Inspectorate holds data on appeals and associated costs applications for the last five years (on a rolling basis). An electronic search of the 6,365 cost applications in our records has not identified any appeals where costs were awarded against a Rule 6 party to the appeal.”
- What are the timescales involved? Once a decision notice has been issued informing an applicant that their planning application for a waste incinerator has been refused, the failed applicant has six months to appeal the refusal. It is not unusual for such an appeal to be made on the very final day of the six month deadline. Whether the planning inquiry is the result of an appeal or because the application has been called-in for the Secretary of State to decide the Planning Inspectorate will set out a ‘Start date’ or ”Call-in date’ which is the day that the appeal was lodged or the application was called-in.
Although planning inquiries vary in their length and complexity, the general timescales of cases are expected to be reduced as a result of ‘Rosewell style’ inquiries that implement the February 2019 Inquires Review carried out by Bridget Rosewell which aims for decisions to be published within 24 weeks of the Appeal’s Start date. The Waste Planning Authority is expected to notify objectors within 1 week of the Start date. A typical timescale requires Interested parties to submit their Statements of Case or Interested Party statements within 5 weeks of the Start date (historically it was around 6 – 7 weeks after the Start date). Historically there was a a Pre-Inquiry Meeting is held to agree procedures between 12 – 20 weeks after the Start date, but for Rosewell style inquiries this has been replaced with a case management meeting around 6 weeks from the Start date. Proofs of Evidence from all expert witnesses are usually required 4 weeks in advance of the start of the Inquiry Hearings, which for Rosewell style inquiries is required around 1 weeks from the Start date. Inquiry Hearings often entail between 4 and 24 sitting days (usually Tuesdays – Fridays) commencing around 15 of 16 weeks from the Start date (historically between 20 – 41 weeks from the Start date). Once the Inquiry Hearings have finished it historically took between a few months to over a year for the decision to be made, but under the new system is targeted to be no later than 24 weeks from the Start date. Recovered appeals and call-in inquiries take longer than appeals that are decided by a Planning Inspector.
- Planning Inspectorate guide to taking part in planning and listed building consent appeals proceeding by an inquiry – England
- Planning Inspectorate Procedural Guide Planning appeals – England
- CPRE guide on how to challenge a planning decision
- Aviation Environment Federation guide to taking part in planning inquiries (from 2008, so some of the information is out of date)
It is often the site-specific and proposal-specific arguments that succeed in providing robust grounds for refusal of individual planning applications. These arguments relate to the impacts of a proposal on the area where the facility would be located, and how a proposal therefore goes against local and/or national planning policy.
Because planning decisions are a the result of a ‘balancing act’ it is important to highlight where the applicant has overstated or failed to demonstrate claimed benefits (e.g. claims of climate change benefits) and where the applicant has omitted or downplayed disbenefits (e.g. potential for adverse visual impacts) even when such arguments might not, in and of themselves, provide sufficient basis for refusal.
While the scale of opposition from the local community and the prospect of adverse human health impacts cannot generally be grounds for refusal of a planning application, raising these issues can underline to members of the Planning Committee the importance of carefully considering the application and questioning the proposal’s consistency with the Council’s Local Plan and with national policy.
Where refusal has been upheld by a Planning Inspector (following a planning appeal), the main reason usually cited by a Planning Inspector to dismiss the appeal is that they agree with one or more of the Planning Committee’s grounds of refusal. For call-in inquiries, if clear grounds of call-in have been specified by the Secretary of State, then it is often one or more of these grounds that would form the basis for planning permission being refused. It is often the case that successful arguments in support of refusal relate to clear conflicts with specific policies in the Local Plan.
Examples of inquiry / appeal decisions where planning permission for incinerators was refused:
- Application by Veolia ES (Hertfordshire) Limited for Land at 2 Ratty’s Lane, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (3195373), refused by the Secretary of State on 19 July 2019. According to the Decision Letter: “The Secretary of State considers that the significant adverse landscape and visual impacts, which as well as being in conflict with the development plan are also in conflict with emerging plan policies, policies of the Epping Forest Local Plan, policies of the Lee Valley Park Plan, and the Framework, carry considerable weight against the proposal. He further considers that highways matters, including those on safety, carry substantial weight against the proposal. Taken together, the Secretary of State considers these matters justify refusal in this case…In the light of his conclusions on highways matters, which are specific to this case, he does not consider that the scheme constitutes sustainable development.”
- Application for Former Ravenhead Glass Warehouse and other land, Lock Street, St Helens (2224529), refused by inspector Mel Middleton on 3 August 2015. According to the Inspector: “…this proposal is locationally not in accordance with the WP and 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….The proposal is contrary to WP Policies WM12 and WM13.”
- Application by Veolia Environmental Services Ltd for land at New Barnfield, Hatfield (2192045), refused by the Secretary of State on 7 July 2014. According to the Decision Letter: “The Secretary of State considers that substantial weight should be given to the Green Belt harm by reason of inappropriateness. He considers that the harm to the openness of the Green Belt is real and he gives substantial weight to this harm. He also gives weight to the harm to the perception of a gap between Hatfield and Welham Green in line with the Green Belt aim to prevent neighbouring settlements merging into one another. The Secretary of State considers that there is further significant harm to the character and appearance of the area, and to the amenity of residents and users (particularly the enjoyment of the countryside, the footpath and cycle network, and the outlook from the most affected properties). He considers that there would be significant (though less than substantial) harm to the setting of the ensemble of heritage assets at Hatfield House and Park, and he attaches considerable weight and importance to this harm. Due primarily to the scale of the development, the Secretary of State considers that the mitigation proposals would not be fully effective in mitigating these impacts; that this harm would endure for at least the life of the scheme (c. 25 years); and that the existence of such a large building would be a material factor in considering the future potential of the site at that time… he agrees with the Inspector’s conclusion that the very special circumstances necessary to justify the development do not exist”
- Application by Sky Properties Limited for Green Lane (2162103), refused by John Woolcock on 21 August 2012 because: “…the schemes would have unacceptable land use consequences, and that the planning balance in both Appeal A and Appeal B weighs against allowing the proposed development”. According to the Inspector: “The proposed EfW would comprise large structures and a 55 m high stack. The activity and movement of distinctive waste carrying HGVs would again identify the use as processing waste, notwithstanding that the plant would be set back from Green Lane. These vehicles would use the same access off Green Lane as that proposed for the MRF/AD facility. The stack would have an adverse influence on the residential and recreation area the other side of the motorway because it would be prominent in views above the motorway embankment. In terms of the character of the area, I do not consider that local residents would perceive the proposed stack for a waste facility to be comparable to that which might apply to a stack associated with a hospital, as was suggested by the appellant. This activity and land use would be out of keeping with the mixed industrial/residential character of the area. It would create an awkward juxtaposition of waste processing with nearby residential development and the tourism/leisure use of the Canal. This would result in a high magnitude of change to the townscape. I consider that the proposed EfW facility and activity associated with it would have a substantial adverse impact on the character of the area….I have found that waste facilities of the nature and scale proposed here would harm the character of the area, and I consider that the appellant’s evaluation underestimates the impact that residential development of the GUS site is likely to have on the townscape….the substantial harm from the proposed EfW facility I have identified to the character of the area, and to some extent its appearance, along with the resultant and enduring land use conflict that would result from siting an EfW facility of the nature and size proposed by the Appeal B scheme in this location, is an important consideration that weighs heavily against allowing the proposal…I find that the planning balance weighs against granting planning permission for the proposed EfW facility.”
- Application by Covanta Energy Limited for Land Off Pochin Way, and Land to the South of ERF Way and North of Cledford Lane Land, Middlewich, Cheshire (2129865), refused by Inspector R J Tamplin on 20 July 2012. The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector that “…there is likely to be an oversupply of such facilities compared to the amount of residual waste available for treatment within the county…” and that “…due to its scale, height and industrial character, the proposal would have a substantially significant landscape and visual impact within Midpoint 18 and on the countryside around up to 30km distant…”. According to the Decision Letter: “The Secretary of State also considers that the proposal would conflict with the policy aims of Annex E of PPS10 in terms of visual intrusion, nature conservation, traffic and access, and air emissions (as they apply to traffic); as well as concluding that the economic benefits of the appeal proposals have been overstated.”
- Application by Mr N Baston (Biogen Power Ltd) for Twinwoods Business Park, Thurhleigh Road, Milton Earnest, Bedfordshire (2141593), refused by the Secretary of State on 9 February 2012 on the basis that: “Having weighed up all of the material considerations, the Secretary of State concludes that though there are a number of material considerations in favour of the proposal, these are outweighed by the need, in the light of the Rookery Pit DC, to undertake a thorough assessment of the development of other facilities, in order to ensure that there is no prejudice to the scale, location or phasing of new development which is being addressed in the WCS. He therefore does not consider that there are any material considerations of sufficient weight which would justify granting planning permission”. According to the Decision Letter: “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…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.”
- Application by Veolia ES Nottinghamshire Ltd for Land At Former Rufford Colliery, Rainworth, Nottinghamshire (2102006), refused by the Secretary of State on 26 May 2011 because: “…the Secretary of State cannot be satisfied that it [the incinerator] would not harm the integrity of the area; that it would appear as an alien feature and intrude on the openness of the countryside; and that the site is due to be restored to woodland and heathland and is not allocated for development”. According to the Inspector: “As matters of fact, and by way of background, the application site is within an area (Sherwood Forest) known to support more than 1% of the total UK breeding populations of (woodlark and nightjar) Annex 1 species for the purposes of the Birds Directive. The (2009) East Midlands Regional Plan records that the area is being considered for designation as a Special Protection Area (SPA). The application site itself is known to support breeding woodlark and foraging nightjar…[It is] hard to conclude that the construction and operation of the ERF alone would run no risk of undermining the objective of maintaining both the habitats and populations of these birds within the protected Area…the ERF building would appear as an isolated, but prominent alien feature in the wider rural landscape…a particular disadvantage of the ERF scheme is that it would involve the loss of habitat, used by woodlark and nightjar, at a time when the site would otherwise become more attractive to these birds as a result of its restoration. It would also detract from concerted efforts being made to consolidate the patchwork of lowland heath found in this part of Sherwood Forest. This would be at odds with the recognised need for a step change improvement to biodiversity, across the region…”
Locational Criteria of the National Planning Policy for Waste (NPPW):
Paragraph 7 of the NPPW states that: “When determining waste planning applications, waste planning authorities should… consider the likely impact on the local environment and on amenity against the criteria set out in Appendix B…”
The locational criteria set out within the NPPW Appendix B are as follows:
- a. protection of water quality and resources and flood risk management – “Considerations will include the proximity of vulnerable surface and groundwater or aquifers. For landfill or land-raising, geological conditions and the behaviour of surface water and groundwater should be assessed both for the site under consideration and the surrounding area. The suitability of locations subject to flooding, with consequent issues relating to the management of potential risk posed to water quality from waste contamination, will also need particular care.”
- b. land instability – “Locations, and/or the environs of locations, that are liable to be affected by land instability, will not normally be suitable for waste management facilities.”
- c. landscape and visual impacts – “Considerations will include (i) the potential for design-led solutions to produce acceptable development which respects landscape character; (ii) the need to protect landscapes or designated areas of national importance (National Parks, the
Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coasts) (iii) localised height restrictions.”
- d. nature conservation – “Considerations will include any adverse effect on a site of international importance for nature conservation (Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation and RAMSAR Sites), a site with a nationally recognised designation (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Nature Reserves), Nature Improvement Areas and
ecological networks and protected species.”
- e. conserving the historic environment – “Considerations will include the potential effects on the significance of heritage assets, whether designated or not, including any contribution made by their setting.”
- f. traffic and access – “Considerations will include the suitability of the road network and the extent to which access would require reliance on local roads, the rail network and transport links to ports.”
- g. air emissions, including dust – “Considerations will include the proximity of sensitive receptors, including ecological as well as human receptors, and the extent to which adverse emissions can be controlled through the use of appropriate and well-maintained and
managed equipment and vehicles.”
- h. odours – “Considerations will include the proximity of sensitive receptors and the extent to which adverse odours can be controlled through the use of appropriate and well maintained and managed equipment.”
- i. vermin and birds – “Considerations will include the proximity of sensitive receptors. Some waste management facilities, especially landfills which accept putrescible waste, can attract vermin and birds. The numbers, and movements of some species of birds, may be influenced by the distribution of landfill sites. Where birds congregate in large numbers, they may be a major nuisance to people living nearby. They can also provide a hazard to aircraft at locations close to aerodromes or low flying areas. As part of the aerodrome safeguarding procedure (ODPM Circular 1/2003) local planning authorities are required to consult aerodrome operators on proposed developments likely to attract birds. Consultation arrangements apply within safeguarded areas (which should be shown on the policies map
in the Local Plan). The primary aim is to guard against new or increased hazards caused by development. The most important types of development in this respect include facilities intended for the handling, compaction, treatment or disposal of household or commercial wastes.”
- j. noise, light and vibration – “Considerations will include the proximity of sensitive receptors. The operation of large waste management facilities in particular can produce noise affecting both the inside and outside of buildings, including noise and vibration from goods vehicle traffic movements to and from a site. Intermittent and sustained operating noise may be a problem if not properly managed particularly if night-time working is involved. Potential light pollution aspects will also need to be considered.”
- k. litter – “Litter can be a concern at some waste management facilities.”
- l. potential land use conflict – “Likely proposed development in the vicinity of the location under consideration should be taken into account in considering site suitability and the envisaged waste management facility.”
In order to operate, an incinerator needs both planning permission and an Environmental Permit. Whilst planning decisions relate to ‘land use’ issues and whilst the planning process entails weighing the benefits and disbenefits of a proposal in the planning balance, permit decisions are made following an assessment of the proposal against a checklist of regulatory requirements and do not concern themselves with other matters, e.g. the need or otherwise for the facility.
When considering an application for an Environmental Permit, the Environment Agency is required to determine only whether or not the applicant has met the relevant minimum legal requirements. If the legal requirements have all been met then the Environment Agency has no power to deny an Environmental Permit.
In most cases Environment Permits are granted, but in some cases the Environment Agency requires further information from the applicant first in order to satisfy themselves that the requirements are met (and in some such circumstances it has been known for some applicants for gasification plants to withdraw their application rather than answer the Environment Agency’s questions). In some cases the Environment Agency will inform the applicant that they will only grant an Environmental Permit if there is a change, such as an increase in higher stack height or the introduction of more expensive emissions reduction equipment. In such cases, it is possible that the applicant will need to seek variations to their planning permission so that it matches the changes necessary to obtain the permit.
The resources and level of consultation that the Environment Agency will devote to determining an Environmental Permit application will depend on whether or not the Environment Agency takes the view that the proposal is one of “High Public Interest”. Amongst other factors, when determining whether a proposal is one of High Public Interest the Environment Agency takes into account: “the breadth and scale of interest – for example, the number of different sources such as individuals, interest groups, businesses, local councillors, media and whether there is ongoing engagement from the local MP”.
According to the Environment Agency, when determining permit applications they can take into account:
- Relevant environmental regulatory requirements and technical standards.
- Information on local population and sensitive sites.
- Comments on whether the right process is being used for the activity, for example whether the technology is the right one.
- The shape and use of the land around the site in terms of its potential impact, whether that impact is acceptable and what pollution control or abatement may be required.
- The impact of noise and odour from traffic on site.
- Permit conditions by providing information that we have not been made aware of in the application, or by correcting incorrect information in the application (e.g. monitoring and techniques to control pollution).
- Issues beyond those in the relevant environmental regulations.
- Anything outside the remit of the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR), e.g. the proposed location of the site, which is done by the local authority via land use planning.
- Whether a site should have a formal designation under Habitats Directive or other conservation legislation.
- Whether the activity should be allowed or not as a matter of principle. For example we will not consider whether wood, gas, or coal should be burnt to produce electricity; only that the options and environmental impact of say wood has been considered. We will not consider whether a waste incinerator proposal should be turned into a sorting and recycle proposal, only that the incinerator options and effect have been considered.
- Land use issues when determining a permit application, even if changing the location of the activity would improve its environmental performance.
- The impact of noise and odour from traffic travelling to and from the site.
- The legally defined process we follow to determine a permit.
- The granting of a permit/variation if the operator is able to demonstrate that they can carry out the activity without significant risk to the environment or human health.
- Location-specific issues such as temperature inversions, local wildlife sites and ‘in-combination effects’ with other sources of pollution that may not have been fully addressed;
- Whether or not the applicant has adequately justified their proposed stack height (i.e. whether or not they have justified not opting for a higher stack which could reduce pollution impacts on nearby sensitive receptors);
- The applicant’s choice of NOx pollution reduction technology (some are better but more expensive, so they may have argued for a cheaper solution);
- The basis for the level of emissions ‘worst case scenario’ (during operation they are allowed to subtract measurement uncertainty when they assess their measured emissions against emissions limits, and so an actual ‘worst case under the permit’ scenario would be for emissions to be at the Industrial Emissions Directive limits plus double the measurement uncertainty);
- How the operator handles uncertainty with respect to where pollution will fall (it has been stated by incinerator applicants for appeal ref 3218965 that “Dispersion models typically have an accepted uncertainty of up to +/-25%”, so a ‘worst case scenario’ assessment should assume the impact on any given receptor is potentially 25% higher than modelled);
- Any significant errors and omissions that mean the Environment Agency should go back to the applicant with more questions (in what is known as a “Schedule 5 request”); and
- Any inconsistencies between the information provided for the Environmental Permit and for the planning application (which could require the applicant to provide an explanation to the Environment Agency and/or for the planning permission being varied).
- Environmental permits: when and how we consult (Environment Agency, April 2019)
- Best Available Technique (BAT) Reference Document (BREF) for Waste (European Commission, August 2018)
- How to be a Waste Watchdog (Roberta Arbinolo, July 2019)
- EEB guide For NGOs implementing EU standards for waste treatment (European Environmental Bureau, July 2019)
- Emissions Dispersion Modelling Appraisal (UKWIN, June 2016)
Incinerators are very expensive to build, and the risk of the incinerator not being needed is usually transferred to local councils to give the operator and their funders a more secure return on their investment. Rather than simply charging a gate fee for each tonne of waste burned and operating as a ‘merchant’ facility, many incinerator companies and their financial backers require local councils to enter into long-term contracts to ensure that the incinerator is paid for either directly or indirectly. As such, contracts with Local Authorities often include what amounts to financial penalties if there is insufficient feedstock to fuel an incinerator, and some waste management contracts also mandate the specific composition of the material to be treated via incineration.
The most basic arrangement would be that the local council directly pays some or all of the capital and/or operational costs incurred, in exchange for free or discounted usage of the facility. This could include a commitment that the council pays for the availability of incineration capacity even if the council does not use that capacity, possibly with a small rebate if the ‘spare’ capacity is used by a third party. Alternatively, a local council might agree to a minimum tonnage guarantee that requires the council to supply at least a certain amount of waste and pay for it at an agreed gate fee, sometimes with a banding system so that if the council sends less waste then they pay more per tonne.
Whatever the details, the end result is usually that a Local Authority has higher fixed costs and lower variable costs. These arrangements reduce the financial incentive for those councils to incinerate less than the quantities assumed in the financial models used as the basis for the contract. Money invested in incineration cannot also be invested in reduction, re-use and recycling. Furthermore, requiring a certain composition of waste may discourage positive changes, such as the introduction of separate food waste collection. Many Councils have cited their incinerator contract as a reason why they have poor recycling rates.
However, such contracts can also include various ‘break clauses’, which means for example that if the incinerator is delayed, or if the project goes outside of the cost envelope, or if the planning permission is not ‘satisfactory’ due to the planning conditions attached to it, then the council can terminate the contract with few or no financial penalties. Contracts can also contain mechanisms to allow for the arrangements to be varied or terminated by mutual consent. Sometimes the contracts are on the council’s website, but sometimes they have to be requested by reference to the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations.
- First-tier tribunal decision of 10 March 2017 (Gloucestershire County Council v the Information Commissioner) [and Addendum]
- Local Government Transparency Code (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, 2015)
As the Government’s 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy put it: “Residual waste is the mixed material that is typically incinerated for energy recovery or landfilled. Much of the products and materials contained in this waste could have been prevented, reused or recycled. This is inefficient not only because materials that hold value are being lost, but also incineration and landfill are the most expensive ways to treat waste” (Source).
‘Residual waste’ is not a single feedstock, but is instead a collection of material streams, many of which could have been captured for recycling, composting, or re-use. As such, promoting alternatives to incineration is not simply about promoting a less harmful form of residual waste management, but is instead about avoiding waste from entering the residual bin in the first place. Stopping incinerators and commitments to incineration creates opportunities for these better alternatives to be adopted. There are also opportunities to support local ‘Zero Waste’ and ‘Circular Economy’ efforts such as re-use schemes and zero packaging shops to reduce what goes into the waste management system.
Compositional analysis studies show that there are many instances where the majority (i.e. over 50%) of ‘waste’ collected at the kerbside could have been recycled or composted had it been put into the correct bin (Source). Further material can be recycled if additional recycling services are offered. Given that incinerators can take several years to build and can be expected to last for several decades, it is important to think of the longer term changes that we can anticipate over time, and that includes products being redesigned to be more recyclable or ‘designed out’ due to their unsustainability.
In some cases incineration only seems like the ‘most economic’ pathway for a material because the environmental cost of burning that waste or the environmental benefits of reduction, re-use, recycling and composting are yet to be fully reflected in the price of treatment (Source). However, these ‘false economies’ could easily be rectified within the early years of the lifespan of a new incinerator, and so should not be relied upon to justify a Council committing to long-term incineration contracts that would then pose a barrier to recycling these materials.
There is a significant gap between the Councils with the highest recycling rates and those that lag behind. East Riding of Yorkshire Council sent 64.5% of household waste to recycling or composting in 2017/18, while Stroud District Council managed to increase their recycling rate from 45.5% in 2016/17 to 61.2% in 2017/18. Lessons can be learnt from higher performing and rapidly improving areas.
Councils can improve recycling rates by:
- Providing a weekly food waste collection for composting or anaerobic digestion
- Ensuring a full range of recyclable materials are collected at the kerbside, including glass jars and bottles, cartons (e.g. Tetra Paks), batteries, textiles (clothes), food trays and plastic bottle tops.
- Ensuring waste contracts reward reductions in residual waste by avoiding or exiting long-term waste incineration contracts
- Investing in waste education to save money that would otherwise be spent on disposal
- Introducing a re-use scheme for local bring sites (HWRCs)
- Promote re-use networks such as Freegle and Freecycle, including to those seeking bulky waste collection
- Enhancing their commitment to green procurement and give preference to buying items that can be (or that have been) recycled
- Providing a free garden waste service for grass cuttings and hedge trimmings
- Introducing kerbside glass collection
One source of inspiration is ‘A Circular Economy / Zero Waste Strategy for Derry City and Strabane District Council‘ produced by Eunomia for Derry City and Strabane District Council and Zero Waste North West, which includes recommended policies such as:
- Policy 1: The Council will commit resources to a campaign to communicate and inform its residents of the benefits of a Zero Waste Circular Economy strategy. Within this, it will promote waste prevention, effective use of kerbside collection schemes, and opportunities for re-use through bulky waste / Household Waste & Recycling Centres. Communities will be made aware of the positive reasons for undertaking such activities
- Policy 2: The Council will embed education on the Zero Waste Circular Economy strategy into school education programmes.
- Policy 3: The Council will support home composting and reusable nappies for residents.
- Policy 5: The Council will use its interactions with local businesses to promote behavioural change towards Zero Waste Circular Economy.
- Policy 8: The Council will review existing preparation for re-use and repair initiatives…to increase the amount of material re-use locally.
- Policy 9: The Council will set targets for the preparation for re-use of furniture and WEEE collected by Council. These could be 30% furniture and 20% WEEE prepared for re-use by 2020
- Policy 10: The Council will…ensure HWRC and Bulky Waste services prioritise donation of usable items wherever possible.
- Policy 11: The Council will utilise re-use centre skills to run repair and re-use workshops for residents and a permanent repair cafe, with possible further extension into businesses.
- Policy 12: The Council will commit to using only re-usable products at public events run by the Council, potentially using Deposit Return Schemes at events to reduce litter.
- Policy 13: The Council will seek to re-use furniture in Council owned buildings and design Council buildings for modularity / second life.
- Policy 14: The Council will look at developing networks of merchants to act as reuse hubs for small construction firms (wood, piping, cabling, etc.)
- Policy 21: The Council will not enter into any residual waste contract which compromises ability to achieve its Zero Waste goals.
- Policy 23: The Council will extend the use of green public procurement criteria to all purchasing activity with a view to embedding the principles of the Circular Economy throughout the Council. This will include the opportunity for product service models based on the whole life cost of the service delivered and incorporating the principles of The Social Value Act.
- Policy 24: The Council will incorporate green criteria into the Council planning system and any construction owned by the Council. Consideration will be given to setting targets for re-use / recycling of demolition and construction wastes.
- Policy 25: Publicly run canteens (schools etc.) will redistribute edible surplus food wherever possible.
- Policy 27: Designated advice, loan or funding mechanisms for local businesses to resource shifts towards Circular Economy business models will be established.
- Policy 28: The Council will embed Zero Waste Circular Economy principles into any economic development plans and business funding offered.
- Policy 30: The Council will support businesses in the redistribution of edible surplus food.
- A Circular Economy / Zero Waste Strategy for Derry City and Strabane District Council produced by Eunomia for Derry City and Strabane District Council and Zero Waste North West (November 2017)
- Zero Waste Case Studies (Zero Waste Europe)
- Recycle Now – Where and How to Recycle
- Zero Waste Near Me – a “UK-based, all-inclusive resource of local businesses and community initiatives to help you on your journey in living more sustainably”
- Circular Economy Package (European Commission)
There are various opportunities to campaign even when a local incinerator has been built or is under construction, and there is also a role for local communities to play in monitoring the incinerator’s activities.
Log and report incidents of noise, odours, flies, vermin and other nuisance
Those living near waste incinerators complain about having had to deal with problems such as noise, odour, traffic, worsened air quality and light pollution. Despite assurances made at the planning and permitting stages that the facility would be safe and trouble-free, Viridor’s incinerator at INEOS Chlor’s Runcorn facility has been quite problematic for local residents. The Environment Agency has received over a thousand complaints from residents, covering nuisances such as noise, odour, and dust (Source, Source). Additionally, within a six-month period there were two spillages of hydrated lime resulting in employees needing to go to hospital (Source).
MVV’s incinerator in Devonport, Plymouth has also generated numerous complaints from local residents, with one commenting that: “The summer was awful, all the flies, the rubbish, the smell. I am looking to move because we have had enough of it”, and another stating that: “It smells, it makes me feel sick” (Source). According to an ITV report: “Residents nearby have complained about the smell, the noise and flies in their homes. They say their worst fears have been realised” (Source).
The Derby gasification plant has also been plagued by odour and other issues. It was reported in June 2018 that: “Bad smells from the controversial Sinfin waste treatment plant are still plaguing residents almost a year after the stink first started. Last August, residents and businesses near to the plant complained to the Environment Agency about a compost-like smell shortly after waste arrived for pre-opening commissioning. They were told the smell would disappear and was due to waste being stored on the site ahead of testing. But the smell has continued to plague residents – especially during the recent warmer weather – despite earlier promises from the operators that there would be no smell off-site from the facility”. (Source)
Where nuisance incidents occur and problems arise, those living or working nearby can:
- Contact the Environment Agency to report the incident, asking for a an incident number (to be recorded in a personal complaints log)
- Inform the Council’s Environmental Health Officer
- Contact the Council’s Planing Enforcement Officer (as there may have been a breach of planning conditions)
- Contact their local councillor
It is highly recommended that residents maintain their own records of any incidents in a log book, which could be useful for future complaints or in legal claims for financial compensation (as you may be able to bring a legal action against the operator if the peaceful enjoyment of your property has been seriously harmed by a statutory nuisance).
Keep an eye out for changes to the planning permission and environmental permit, e.g. to enlarge/extend the facility
It is not unusual for operators to seek to vary their planning permission and/or their environmental permit to allow them to do things that would not be allowed under their current consents. For example, they might want to enlarge the facility, increase the number of tonnes of material to be processed, loosen restrictions on operating hours and traffic controls, or change to a different form of incineration technology. You can ask your local Council to confirm whether or not you would be informed of any changes with respect to the planning consent, and you can work with your local Councillors to keep track of any new proposals.
Read the annual incinerator monitoring reports and other information on the EA’s Public Register
Incinerator operators are required to submit reports on an annual basis that reflect their activities. These annual monitoring reports are submitted to the Environment Agency, usually in January, and cover the previous calendar year. The reports contain information about emissions released by the incinerator, the number of tonnes of material processed by the incinerator, and details of incidents where the site has not complied with its environmental permit. The full set of Incinerator Monitoring Reports from 2017 can be accessed via: https://ea.sharefile.com/share/view/s8f6ea992dd64515a and the Reports from 2018 are available from: https://ea.sharefile.com/d-s5006ebe06a44060b
UKWIN maintains a library of annual incinerator reports and additional documentation held by the Environment Agency which can be accessed via our UK Incinerators webpage. Further information is available from the Environment Agency’s Public Register.
Minimise how much you and others are sending to the incinerator
Starve the monster of feedstock, e.g. by campaigning for better recycling and composting services in your area, pushing for more public education about what can and cannot currently be recycled by your Council, supporting local circular economy and zero waste initiatives (including calling for better recycling facilities at your workplace).
Campaign nationally for better regulation, greater transparency, and for the introduction of an incineration tax
Join forces with UKWIN and help us campaign at a national level.
Identify opportunities for your Council to exit (or not renew) their incinerator contract
Waste contracts contain one or more end dates and break clauses, and if you know that a deadline is approaching your can call upon your Council to ditch their incinerator contract in favour of a long-term commitment to reduction, reuse, recycling and composting.
Judicial review of a public body’s decision
As noted in UKWIN’s Guide to Judicial Review: “A judicial review involves a judge “reviewing” whether a public body’s decision is lawful. It is essentially a challenge to the way a decision has been made, not an appeal to assess whether the decision was right or wrong. The usual outcome of a successful judicial review is that the public body is ordered to reconsider their decision. So the judge could set aside a planning decision permitting an incinerator to be built, and make a declaration that the planning authority’s decision was unlawful, with guidance about factors to be taken into account if/when a new decision was taken. The judge would not normally forbid an incinerator to be built, or order the authority not to grant planning permission. So, judicial review is a court process to ensure that decision-makers follow a proper procedure which is fair and rational.
Scrutiny Committees (sometimes known as ‘Task and finish Groups’)
Many councils have mechanisms to allow for decisions to be called-in or scrutinised. Your local Councillor should be able to advise you as to the procedures and systems in place that can be used.
Call-in for Planning Applications (England)
As noted in the section on planning applications (above), prior to the decision notice being issued for a planning application the Secretary of State has the power to call-in the application for their determination. However, the grounds of call-in relate to the details of the planning application itself, not how the manner in which it has been handled. In essence, it will be the proposal which is being challenged and not the actions of the council.
Complaints and the Local Government Ombudsman (England)
Councils have complaints processes for circumstances where the Local Authority’s conduct has fallen below what should be expected of them. It is only once these processes have been exhausted that one can escalate the matter by raising a complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman. For decisions such as planning decisions the complaints process cannot result in the decision being reversed because the issuance of a Decision Notice can only be overturned by a judicial review, but there may be opportunities for the Council to improve their procedures for future decisions. As such, when making a complaint it is important to consider the ‘remedy’ that you are seeking.
Information requests (England)
As explained in the section in information requests (above), you have the right to request an internal review of decisions to refuse the release of information under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) and Freedom of Information (FoI) Act. If the internal review is unsuccessful then there is also the opportunity the appeal to the Information Commissioner in what is known as a ‘complaint’.
Government decisions and national policies
As noted in the section on ‘Engaging your MP’ (below), if the Government is making bad decisions or have policies that you disagree with then your local MP does have the right to raise this in Parliament. They can also potentially raise the matter more by writing to or meeting with the relevant Minister or Secretary of State.
While there may be some restrictions based on what specific Members of Parliament (MPs) can do (e.g. the Speaker of the House is limited in relation to what they can say, and only Backbenchers can take part in Backbench Debates), campaigns can often be bolstered by the support of MPs from the proposed site and surrounding areas.
You can get to know your MP and the other people who work in the MP’s office either by writing to your MP (always stating your address, so that they can confirm that you are a member of the MPs constituency) and/or by making an appointment to speak to your MP on a Friday in what is known as an MP’s ‘surgery’. During an election period you can also seek confirmation that the candidates running to become MP would support your cause if they were elected.
Ways an MP could help your campaign include using their position to:
- Raise awareness of the campaign, including by speaking about the campaign on social media, in the local press, and in Parliament.
- Object to planning applications – Some MPs even speak at Planning Committee meetings and/or at public inquiries making clear either their own personal opposition or the strength of opposition from their constituents.
- Write to the Secretary of State in support of call-in of planning applications – MPs can provide evidence of the ‘controversy’ of the planning application and confirm that it raises matters of more than local importance, encouraging the Secretary of State to call-in an application that might otherwise be granted planning permission by the Waste Planning Authority (e.g. the local County Council).
- Express an interest in Environmental Permit applications – The continued interest of an MP is one of the criteria used by the Environment Agency to determine whether or not a permit application is of ‘High Public Interest’ and therefore worthy of extra resources and a second round of consultation.
- Call for changes in Government policy, including through: Early Day Motions, letters to the Government and/or Cabinet members, their activity in various Parliamentary Committees, and by speaking in the main Chamber.
- Influence their own Party’s position, e.g. election manifesto, including by arranging for a relevant decision-maker (Minister or Shadow Minister, etc.) to visit their constituency to discuss issues with the local community.
- Help secure answers from your local council, especially if they are of the same political party as the council majority party.
- Ask Parliamentary questions about relevant matters to elicit a formal on-the-record Government response.
- Write to relevant Government agencies such as the Environment Agency with relevant concerns, and/or help set up a meeting between the agency representatives and the local community.
One way that you can amplify the message of your local campaign is by strengthening the voice of the national network. The easiest way to do this is by becoming a member of the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN). To join the network simply write to the National Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org with your group name (if you have one) and contact details.
Once you have had a look around the website, if you have any questions then you can contact UKWIN via email@example.com.
If your group is not already on the list at https://twitter.com/UKWIN_Network/lists/anti-incineration-groups/members or at https://ukwin.org.uk/incinerators/ then e-mail us via firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can help raise awareness of your local campaign.