Gent Fairhead pushes ahead on Rivenhall waste plant

The developer of the Rivenhall energy recovery and recycling facility in Essex – with a proposed capacity of  1.2 million tonnes per year – has started preparation works on the site after the county council agreed to its revised plans.

However, the county council has come under fire from some local residents who are seeking to block further development of the site, at Rivenhall Airfield near Braintree, by applying for a judicial review of the planning decision. The project is the latest iteration of a waste facility for the area which has been in the pipeline since the 1990s.

Gent Fairhead & Co. has started clearing trees at Rivenhall Airfield after its variation was approved by Essex county council
Gent Fairhead & Co. has started clearing trees at Rivenhall Airfield after its variation was approved by Essex county council

Besides the energy recovery plant, which will burn solid recovered fuel, the development will also  include a mechanical, biological and treatment (MBT) plant, an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant and a recovered paper pulping facility.

Gent Fairhead & Co, which is based in Herefordshire, reduced the recycling capacity of its proposed ‘Integrated Waste Management Facility’ in July 2015. Now, under the latest revised plans – which were approved at a meeting of Essex county council in February – Gent Fairhead will increase the amount of waste for incineration but reduce the intended MBT capacity from 250,000 to 170,000 tonnes per year.

AD

Elsewhere, AD capacity has been revised down from 85,000 to 30,000 tonnes per year, while recovered paper capacity has been reduced from 360,000 to 170,000 tonnes (see letsrecycle.com story).

The firm also intends to scrap one of the three planned boiler lines for the recovery plant, meaning the thermal capacity will be reduced from 204MWth to 184MWth per year. The variation report claims that this change will make it technically possible to accept RDF from the county council’s facility in Basildon, though no contract has been signed.

It follows the council’s decision in 2015 to grant Gent Fairhead a variation to source SRF and recycling materials from outside the authority boundaries (see letsrecycle.com story).

Under the revision, Gent Fairhead will now be able to increase throughput from 360,000 to 595,000 tonnes of SRF a year at Rivenhall – a significant percentage of the 853,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste it is permitted to process.

Criticism

Critics of the proposed plant, which include the Braintree branch of the Green Party, as well as Colchester and North East Essex Friends of the Earth, have highlighted a number of complaints which the council’s report took into consideration.

These include traffic congestion from additional HGV movements, emissions from the plant, and the need to build a paper pulping facility when a number of mills in the UK have recently closed.

The layout of the proposed IWMF as included in Gent Fairhead's variation report
The layout of the proposed IWMF as included in Gent Fairhead’s variation report

But, the county council has given a green-light to the proposed changes. A Planning Inspector’s report taken into consideration stated “although the development would cause harm in a number of ways, I consider that the proposed mitigation measures would ensure that such harm would be minimised”.

He added that the facility would bring a “wide range of benefits” in line with the East of England Plan and considered a five-year limit for commencement of the plant to be “appropriate and realistic”.

Gent Fairhead is now understood to have started clearing trees at the proposed site. Under a prior extension granted by the county council in 2014, the company had until March 2016 to begin construction or else forfeit its planning permission.

Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Green Party district and county councillor James Abbot said the council’s decision had brought “significant disquiet” to Braintree.

He said: “The county council have refused point blank to publish the advice they took to say what they have agreed to this variation. Why have allowed this to go on year after year and where is their line in the sand? At which point do we turn round and say you can’t do that?”

Review

A group calling themselves Parishes Against Incinerator (PAIN) have now formed to fight the proposed plant – which councillor Abbot revealed could take the shape of a judicial review. But, he added that the group were still “considering their options”.

When contacted by letsrecycle.com, Gent Fairhead & Co. could not be reached for comment.

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