5 March 2010

Secretary of State approves plans for Essex waste facility

Plans to develop a waste facility in Essex with the capacity to treat more than 500,000 tonnes a year of material using technologies ranging from paper pulping to anaerobic digestion have been approved this week (March 2) by Secretary of State for Communities for Local Government John Denham, writes Nick Mann.

The project also includes a pulp plant to make pulp from waste paper which is expected to mainly consist of office grade paper.

The development proposed by Herefordshire-based aggregates company Gent Fairhead for the Rivenhall Airfield site at Witham, near Colchester, was approved by Essex county council but was then called in by the Secretary of State.

Following a public inquiry which began in September 2009, a planning inspector also approved the plans for the site -which is known as the Evolution of the Recycling and Composting Facility (eRCF) – and their recommendation has now been
rubberstamped by Mr Denham.

The decision letter sent this week on behalf of Mr Denham reveals that the proposed facility would include:

– an anaerobic digestion plant treating mixed organic waste;

– a materials recycling facility to recover mixed dry recyclables such as paper and plastics;

– a mechanical biological treatment facility for the treatment of residual municipal and residual commercial and industrial wastes to produce a solid recovered fuel;

– a de-inking and paper pulping facility to recycle paper;

– a combined heat and power (CHP) plant to burn solid recovered fuel to produce electricity, heat and steam.

Information about the project on the website of Golder Associates, who acted as planning agents for Gent Fairhead on the project, reveals that the CHP facility is expected to produce around 33 megawatts of power to be exported to the National Grid.

Sustainable

Among the key reasons given in the Secretary of State's decision to agree with the planning inspector's recommendation that the proposal be approved are: “That it would be a sustainable form of development which would enable the management of waste to be undertaken in a sustainable manner (IR13.22), including the use of solid recovered fuel in the proposed CHP plant and the export of electricity to the National Grid, which would contribute to meeting the Government's Renewable Energy targets (IR13.19).”

The Essex Waste Partnership, which comprises Essex county council and 12 district council and Southend-on-Sea borough council, is currently procuring a PFI-funded waste treatment contract, which included MBT as its reference technology (see letsrecycle.com story).

It is yet to be publicly announce a shortlist of bidders, but Mr Denham's approval letter for the Gent Fairhead application appears to raise the potential for the eRCF project to feature in this process.

The letter said: “He agrees that the proposal would help to satisfy a substantial and demonstrable need for municipal solid waste and/or commercial and industrial waste to be dealt with in Essex and for Essex county council to meet challenging targets set out in the East of England Plan (IR13.51).”

Opposition

The proposals have attracted vocal opposition from local campaign groups and residents but, in its conclusion, the letter states: “Having weighed up all relevant considerations, the Secretary of State concludes that the factors which weigh in favour of the proposed development outweigh its shortcomings and overcome the limited conflicts with the development plan which he has identified.

“Therefore he does not consider that there are any material considerations of sufficient weight which would justify refusing planning permission.”

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