A controversial bid to increase the capacity of a proposed “energy from waste” plant in Peterborough by 20,000 tonnes a year was approved this week.
The application from Viridor Waste Management for land off Fourth Drove, in Fengate, had sparked opposition from Peterborough Friends of the Earth over its potential environmental impact.
Members of Peterborough City Council’s planning and environmental protection committee, were reassured by officers that the development would have a “negligible” affect on human health and the atmosphere, and backed the bid. Speaking after the meeting, Viridor’s head of projects Robert Ryan said: “We proposed changes to the existing planning permission to maximise the benefits from the proposal to the council and the local area.
“Our proposals will result in additional efficiency from the plant and a smaller building, all of which contribute towards to cutting the city’s waste disposal costs and carbon footprint.” The proposal secured the council’s backing in 2010, but Viridor had applied for permission to increase the plant’s throughput from 65,000 tonnes a year to 85,000 tonnes a year.
It will increase the amount of power generated by the facility (40 per cent smaller under the revised plans) to 8.4MW a year, up by 3.6MW.
Richard Olive, of Peterborough Friends of the Earth, provided members with a lengthy list of reasons for refusing planning permission in the group’s view.
He argued there is no need for an increased operation at the plant, calculating the city’s need in a “worst case scenario” to be 42,000 tonnes a year.
He stressed that if such a move was taken it would cause a rise in the amount of greenhouse gases created by the facility, and also brought into question its efficiency - putting the conversion of energy in to energy out at 19 per cent.
He said: “It’s a very poor way of producing energy and it’s certainly not sustainable.”
Ewan Grimstone, development manager at Viridor, however, put the plant’s efficiency - under the revised plans - at 27 per cent, saying it represented “the most efficient energy recovery facility of its size in the UK”.
In response to a query from Cllr David Harrington about the rationale behind the increase in tonnage, Mr Grimstone said the decision was taken in part for commercial reasons, but mainly to make the facility more efficient.
Under the original scheme, he said, the plant’s efficiency was only 17 per cent.
He said: “Twenty-seven per cent is by far the leading example at this level.”
The council’s waste partnership manager Richard Pearn told members the Environment Agency had judged the plant’s impact on human health and the environment to be “negligible” when the authority applied for a permit in relation to the facility.
He added the development would save the city council £1million a year for the lifetime of the plant in landfill costs and also reduce CO2 emissions overall by 10,000 tonnes a year compared to landfill (equivalent to taking 2,800 ,2.2 litre diesel Mondeos off the road permanently).
Cllr Harrington said he was concerned over value for money amid the commercial rationale behind the increase in waste being processed by the plant, but nonetheless gave it his backing in the vote which saw eight of the nine councillors in favour with Cllr Ann Sylvester abstaining.
He said: “It seems to me we have got the best scheme we can possibly consider.”
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Factfile on the development
The proposed facility will have a capacity to treat around 85,000 tonnes of residual, non-recyclable waste a year.
At least 75 per cent will be sourced from the Cambridgeshire.
The plant will generate enough energy to power about 15 per cent of all homes in Peterborough.
About 200 people will be employed during its construction across a two-and-a-half year period, with 25 permenant positions once complete.
Plans to receive fly ash from Gloucestershire
Fly ash produced by an energy from waste facility proposed for Gloucestershire may be heading towards Peterborough, it has been revealed.
Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) is proposing to develop the plant at Javelin Park, in Haresfield, near Gloucester.
Under its plans, fly ash - or so-called air pollution control residues - would be sent to the Augean landfill at Kings Cliffe.
UBB was unable to confirm the volume of fly ash which could be coming to the site, but moved to reassure residents. It comes after a campaigner against the proposed plant contacted the PT warning “toxic” fly ash was heading to the city.
A UBB spokeswoman said: “Air pollution control residues, sometimes know as fly ash, are not toxic. The material is handled as hazardous due to its alkalinity only.”