The Environment Agency has today announced (please see attached) that it is "Minded to issue a Permit" to Gent Fairhead to operate its proposed major waste site and incinerator at Rivenhall Airfield. This comes as a big disappointment to local communities who were celebrating after the EA refused the first Environmental Permit application in December 2016 after considering it for over a year.
The EA refused the first application because it failed to demonstrate Best Available Techniques (BAT) for a plant which could burn up to 595,000 tonnes of waste per annum. EA concerns about emissions to air were linked to the low stack height of only 35m above local ground level. Similarly large waste incinerators typically have stack heights at least twice as high – the incinerator at Ipswich has a smaller capacity than the one proposed at Rivenhall Airfield yet has an 82m high stack.
James Abbott, a local Green Party district and county councillor has been working with the local community in fighting against the waste site plans for over 20 years; he said
"In the refusal for the first application, the EA indicated that a stack height of at least double the 35m originally proposed would be needed to minimise harm to local air quality. In the new consultation period that runs to 18th July we will be asking why it has not stuck to that original requirement.
I am also writing to the EA today to ask that they hold a consultation event in Silver End. The consultation event in Coggeshall on 30th June will attract many residents who want to know more about what is proposed, but the nearest village to the incinerator is Silver End and the EA has previously held events there – they should do so now for this latest consultation.
The second Permit application to the EA was for a 55m stack, which was apparently increased by Gent Fairhead to 58m after the public consultation period had ended. So the stack has gone from 35m to 55m then to 58m. Gent Fairhead confidently told the Inspector to the 2009 public Planning Inquiry that it could operate the plant with a 35m stack. Landscape impact was a key consideration of that Inquiry due to questions about the visibility of the waste plant across the surrounding countryside and from local villages and listed buildings.
We cannot go back to 2009, but it would be interesting to see what decision the Inspector would have made had he been presented with what we know now - the planning creep that has gone on with this site over the years has included the increased stack height, bringing waste in from anywhere, greatly increasing incineration, greatly decreasing recycling and proposals to use the River Blackwater as the "primary source of industrial water for the plant".
We will still urge the EA to refuse the current application despite its announcement today. There will also need to be a full planning application to Essex County Council for the higher stack. Anything higher than 35m will be a breach of 2 of the planning conditions set down by the Inspector to the 2009 Inquiry, which were endorsed by the Secretary of State in early 2010.
Gent Fairhead has been trying to develop this site in the countryside for a major waste development since the early 1990s. First it was for a huge landfill to take millions of tonnes of waste from London, then a so-called "recycling plant for north Essex" and then various versions of the major waste site and incinerator. We have been fighting Gent Fairhead for 24 years - we are not going to stop now."
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